Marine Gen. John F. Kelly Honors Fallen Police Officers and Firefighters at Memorial Day Ceremony

Emily Ngo  Newsday

A U.S. Marine Corps general hailed New York City’s fallen firefighters and police officers Monday as among those whose sacrifices should also be honored on Memorial Day.

During a ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Gen. John F. Kelly paid tribute to NYPD detectives Brian Moore, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — all killed in the line of duty in recent months — as well as firefighters and police officers who died on September 11, 2001.

General John F. Kelly, USMC, delivers remarks during a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Photo, Charles Eckert

General John F. Kelly, USMC, delivers remarks during a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Photo, Charles Eckert

“Although Memorial Day is all about our military members who have paid the price for their devotion to this county,” said Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command to a gathering at the museum, “I would be remiss as we sit here literally in the shadows of what were once the towers, if I failed to mention another kind of hero . . . first responders of every sort.”

Dozens of active servicemen, veterans and their families attended the museum’s ceremony on the pier beside the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier. The service featured the tossing of four commemorative wreaths into the Hudson River, the unfurling of a 100-foot American flag, a three-volley rifle salute, the playing of “Taps,” and a fighter jet flyover in the “missing man formation.”

Kelly, whose son, Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, 29, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, said members of the armed forces “have a look in their eye and a way of walking that marks them as warriors.”

But they are also “ordinary young people performing remarkable acts of bravery,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also spoke about a family member he had lost. His father, Warren Wilhelm, a U.S. Army lieutenant who lost his leg fighting in World War II’s Battle of Okinawa, committed suicide in 1979. Wilhelm had battled cancer and alcoholism.

De Blasio said his administration is dedicated to aiding those with mental health struggles, including veterans, and reiterated his goal to end veteran homelessness this year.

“Whatever your challenge is, it is all of our challenge now,” the mayor told veterans. “We won’t look away from it, we certainly won’t stigmatize it. We own the problems of those who served us.”

De Blasio later marched with other elected officials in the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade, where he received a mixed reception.

Though some parade-goers shouted their support and complimented initiatives such as his rollout of universal prekindergarten, others booed de Blasio loudly or made jokes about the fact that the chronically tardy mayor was on time for the event.

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