95-Year-Old World War II Vet John McHugh Named Grand Marshal As New Generation Learns Of The Courage Of D-Day

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A World War II hero was saluted by a grateful community on Monday during a Memorial Day parade in Whitestone, Queens.

It was a hero’s reception for 95-year-old John McHugh, who was the grand marshal of the parade as a new generation learned of the courage of D-Day. Men like McHugh helped defeat the Nazis 75 years ago and ensure our freedom. His message is:

READ MORE: CNN's Chris Cuomo Suspended Indefinitely Over Extent Of Help To His Brother During Scandal

“To never forget those who are still laying over there. God have mercy on their souls,” McHugh told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

John McHugh (credit: CBS2)

MOREThrough Eyes Of A Veteran: Memorial Day Marks 75th Anniversary Of D-Day

On Memorial Day, we remember that freedom isn’t free, count the toll of war in every generation and pay tribute to the melting pot that makes up our defense.

“America is today [because] of what the veterans did yesterday,” said Benjamin Singer of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA.

Kenneth Woo fought in the Korean War.

PHOTOS: 152nd Memorial Day Parade In Brooklyn

“I feel so proud to be an American. I feel so proud to serve,” Woo said.

Joe Panzardi is a Vietnam vet.

READ MORE: Paterson, N.J. Doubling Down On Vaccination Efforts As Omicron Variant Inches Closer

“I’m thinking of friends I grew up in Flushing with, went to high school with. Two of them didn’t come back home,” Panzardi said.

Colleen Smith a current Army sergeant.

“We are appreciate of those who served before us and we’re appreciative of those who serve along side us currently,” Smith said.

Web Extra: Memorial Day At The Intrepid: 

It was a patriotic and heartfelt gathering in what has been a century-old tradition in Whitestone with a timeless message.

“We can honor them and remember them and be here for them on this day and we should do it every day,” said Richard Blankfein, district deputy grand master of the Queens Masons.

Parents reminded children why Memorial Day and the lives being honored matter.

“If it wasn’t for these people giving their lives we wouldn’t have all the freedoms we have today,” one parent said.

More than a half-million Americans have died in battle since the Civil War protecting our nation’s freedom, like McHugh’s friends in graves in Normandy. On Memorial Day, the very least we can all do is remember.

MORE NEWS: Anne Donnelly, Nassau County's New District Attorney, On Her Goals In Office: 'A Big Responsibility That I Take Seriously'

On June 6, which is the actual anniversary of the allied landing at Normandy, McHugh’s street in Whitestone will be re-named in his honor.