Joint Chiefs Chairman Leads New York Columbus Day Parade
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NEW YORK, Oct. 9, 2006 New York’s 5th Avenue was filled with marchers as the annual Columbus Day Parade got ready to start.
A man in the crowd spotted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “General Pace! You da man, here!” he yelled.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace received the cheers of New Yorkers as he and his wife Lynne led the parade down New York’s most famous avenue. As he marched, shouts came to him from all sides.
“Stay the course, general!”
“Give ‘em hell, General Pace.”
“Semper fi, general. Get it done, sir!”
Pace was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Teaneck, N.J.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation sponsors the annual parade, which celebrates all things Italian. From the classic and new Lamborghini sports cars that motored along the parade route, to opera stars and singers who entertained the crowd, to Italian dancers in provincial costumes, everyone in attendance got an idea of the breadth of Italian culture in America.
Pace reminisced about his own Italian heritage, and its influence on his life and career. “I remember the Italian holidays at my house, where family has always been so important,” he said. “Big meals around the table were important.”
But he also remembered his father, who immigrated here from Italy with his father at 5. “My dad grew up in this city,” Pace said. “At age 8, he sold bananas on the street. In his teenage years, he delivered ice on his back. And to have his son, one generation later, leading a parade like this – it’s an incredible country, and I don’t forget my roots.”
Pace said his father worked two jobs to ensure his four children could take advantage of all the opportunities America could offer.
The story resonated with New Yorkers. Being the first Marine to serve as chairman also resonated as many of the men and women in the crowd wore their Marine T-shirts, hats and caps. During the parade, Pace often went into the crowd to shake their hands.
Italian-Americans were also proud of Italy’s World Cup Soccer triumph. In one area, they chanted “Italia! Italia! Italia!” When the chairman approached, they changed to, “Pace! Pace! Pace!,” but with the Italian pronunciation, “Pa-chay.” In Italian, the general’s name means “peace.”
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, home of the Archdiocese of New York, the general stopped and greeted the Catholic hierarchy of the city. A bit further on, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the general and marched the rest of the way to the reviewing stand.
But even during the parade, the problems of the world crept in. During an interview with WNBC, a reporter asked Pace about North Korea’s claim of testing a nuclear device. “This is going to be a very dangerous time for all countries,” he said. “Every country, like every person, needs as many friends as it can get. We need to stay together, stay focused, let our diplomats do their work and back it up with strength.”