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Mar 18, 2014 9:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays St. Patrick's Day Parade To Honor Military Personnel

Mar 19, 2014 1:35 PM

A year ago Army Specialist Andrew Kuroski was being flown around Afghanistan in a helicopter as part of the U.S. Cavalry. On Saturday, he will be on the front lines once again, not as a soldier, but rather as a grand marshal in the Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Spc. Kuroski will be one of five active duty military personnel leading the 10th annual parade through Hampton Bays. He will be joined by Marine Sergeant Pablo Abad, Coast Guard Storekeeper First Class Darla George, as well as still to be determined members of the Air Force and Navy.

Hampton Bays Parade Chairman John Ryan said the parade committee decided that rather than select one grand marshal, which has been protocol since the parade’s inception a decade ago, it would use this year’s parade as an opportunity to honor all those who are serving in the Armed Forces, by selecting a grand marshal from each of the five branches of the U.S. military. Mr. Ryan added that the committee expects to have the final two grand marshals selected soon.

The parade itself is set to begin at 11 a.m. in front of the Hampton Bays Elementary School on Ponquogue Avenue and will run north to Montauk Highway. Once marchers reach the hamlet’s Main Street, they will make a left turn and continue west until they reach the Flanders Road intersection.

Although all five grand marshals still are serving in their respective branches, Spc. Kuroski is on terminal leave as his four-year tour of duty draws to a close and he has been living with his parents in East Quogue since returning in mid-February. A 2010 graduate of Westhampton Beach High School, Spc. Kuroski said he still is adjusting to civilian life and looking forward to finding a job in the area.

An avid duck hunter and fisherman, Spc. Kuroski said he has spent his weekends going to shooting ranges and spending time with friends and family.

In September, hundreds of East Quogue residents gathered at East Quogue Elementary School to welcome Spc. Kuroski home after a nine-month stint in Afghanistan. Although Saturday won’t be the 21-year-old’s first time in front of a large crowd, he said he’s not quite sure what to expect when marching in the parade.

He said he does appreciate the decision made by the Hampton Bays Hibernians, the group organizing the parade, in choosing to honor military men and women. “I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It shows that the community really cares about us and doesn’t forget about us, so we’re not left in the wind. It’s kind of a blessing, really.”

Coast Guard Storekeeper 1st Class Darla George said she also appreciates the theme for this year’s grand marshals, as it highlights the unity and teamwork that exists between the different branches of the military.

The 35-year-old St. George, Utah, native has been in the Coast Guard for eight years and before that she served four years in the Army, at which time she met her future husband, Vincent, while they were both stationed in Germany. In 1999, after a quick courtship, the two married in Denmark.

SK1 George was relocated to the U.S. Coast Guard Station Shinnecock in July after spending the entirety of her Coast Guard service in Alaska, first in Ketchikan and then in Anchorage. She and her 13-year-old daughter, Skylar, moved into the Coast Guard housing near the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton last summer and her husband, who is in the Army National Guard, joined them in November.

“I was expecting it to be a little bit warmer [on Long Island]. This cold weather has really gotten me down because it’s just like Alaska’s cold weather and I don’t appreciate it,” she joked. “I really do like the sunshine here and I like the differences in the weather. The cold, yes, is starting to bother me, but I know spring is almost here.”

The Georges are avid fans of different Asian cuisines, including Korean, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese foods, SK1 George said. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, sewing, as well as playing the guitar and ukulele. She hopes to get an accounting degree before she is transferred again in two or three years in order to complement her on the job duties, which include handling the station’s finances, purchasing and balancing the budget.

SK1 George said she’s excited to welcome in the spring with Saturday’s parade and eager to experience for the first time the St. Patrick’s Day parade that she’s heard so much about. She said she enjoys getting involved in the community and she relishes this opportunity.

“I’m really looking forward to understanding a little more why St. Patrick’s Day is so important and special around here, and I understand we’re going to be talking to some senators and a bunch of different people, so it’s going to be really exciting,” she said. “I like to go into the middle schools and high schools for career day and just talk to kids about what I do, and now I get to talk about something new.”

Marine Sergeant Pablo Abad, 25, graduated from Southampton High School in 2007 and now lives in Hampton Bays with his wife, Estephany, and their son, Leo. Sgt. Abad currently is a recruiter at the U.S. Armed Forces recruitment center on Main Street in Riverhead.

Spc. Kuroski said he is proud to be able to march in this year’s parade for his fellow soldiers still serving, as well as for those who died in combat.

“I’m looking forward to representing the military and my buddies who were overseas and didn’t make it,” he said, “to kind of raise awareness that there’s still guys over there.”

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Thanks for giving your Heart and Soul to this nation I hope other people appreciate it also. Stay strong brother.
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 19, 14 4:20 PM
Nice to hear about this young man. He comes from a truly good family. Thanks for your service to this country.
By suzer67 (51), nanuet on Mar 19, 14 9:48 PM