CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam County held its inaugural New York State Medal of Honor Parade Saturday afternoon in Carmel, with hundreds of spectators lining Main Street and the shores of Lake Gleneida to show their support.

The parade—which kicked off at the Paladin Center on Seminary Hill Road and proceeded to the historic Putnam County Courthouse—included veterans and representatives from all five branches of the military, antique vehicles, support groups including United for the Troops, and area first responders.

Putnam County’s Joint Veterans Council, the NYS Medal of Honor Committee, and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, worked together to make the parade—part of Putnam’s Medal of Honor Celebration Day—come together.

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Parade grand marshals were Robert O’Malley, U.S. Marines, of Queens, and Paul Bucha, U.S. Army, from Washington, D.C. Both are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.

O’Malley, a Marine who was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, received his medal for actions as a corporal in 1965 during Operation Starlight. Bucha, a former Somers resident, earned the medal for his heroic efforts to save Company D, Third Battalion, from the North Vietnamese army while fighting in Vietnam in 1968.

Speaking at a ceremony following the parade, Bucha urged the crowd to go further than saying “thank you for your service” when meeting a veteran.

“When you see a soldier, don’t let it go with ‘thank you for your service,’” Bucha said. “You can say that, but then ask them where they’re from. If they don’t want to talk, they’ll tell you. At the end of it, they may tell you, ‘I need help.’ And that’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a message of hope. So, when you see these kids in uniform, walk up and say, ‘thank you, where are you from, and can I help?’ And when they say yes—do it. They are entitled to our support without asking.

“And when you’re done, it will move you to your soul,” Bucha added. “We need to come together as a country. The time is over for calling names. We have among us those who have worn the uniform, who can inspire us with their service and integrity. And most important, inspire us with all they represent. That is what we honor today.”

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed forces. The medal is generally presented by the President of the United States in the name of Congress. There are 666 Medals of Honor accredited to New York, the most of any state.