Medal of Honor vet gets attention


            There aren’t many things you can say to a general to make him or her snap to attention, but at the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 31, the Grand Marshal, Major General William Monk III, heard four words that did the trick: “Medal of Honor recipient.”

            Standing across Northern Boulevard from the reviewing stand, unnoticed among the thousands of spectators, stood Woodside native Marine Corps Sergeant Robert E. O’Malley, who, as a 22-year-old corporal, earned the nation’s highest honor for valor.

            Upon learning he was in the presence of the first U.S. Marine so honored during the Vietnam War, the general left the stage, accompanied by another honoree – Edward S. Kilduff, Chief of the New York City Fire Department and highest-ranking uniformed FDNY member.

            By time-honored tradition, the general and the chief snapped to attention and saluted the once-and-always Marine sergeant.

Missing from the group was the parade’s police honoree, Detective Terry McGhee, former sergeant with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, international-champion boxer and key member of the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

            Although tough enough to have once extracted a bullet from his own abdomen after a fight with an armed assailant, McGhee was paralyzed during a confidential operation in Lisbon, Portugal while serving with the JTTF.

            It was O’Malley’s turn to recognize a fellow warrior.

The Grover Cleveland High School graduate and member of American Legion Continental Post 1424 in Forest Hills was leading a squad on August 18, 1965 when they came under “intense small arms fire.”

He single-handedly wiped out an entrenched enemy position, led a further assault to help other Marines and, although wounded three times, covered the evacuation of his men before he allowed himself to be removed.

O’Malley attended church and school with Marine Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan, Jr., who was also awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969 – posthumously. Though he now lives in Texas, since “Tommy” Noonan’s death, O’Malley visits his boyhood pal’s mother every Memorial Day.

            “I’m up here visiting family,” O’Malley said. “I heard this was the biggest Memorial Day parade in the country, so I had to see it.”