Grand Marshals Announced for Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade
By Alicia Venter
The grand marshals for the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade were named on Friday at the American Legion Continental Post #1424. The parade, which will be on Sunday, May 28 beginning with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m., will be led by five notable members of the community who have each shown exemplary service in different ways.
“This is a point where we take the opportunity to thank our community and veteran heroes,” said Mike Arcati, commander of the American Legion Continental Post #1424.
Parade organizers are having their annual VIP Donors Kickoff at the West Side Tennis Club (1 Tennis Place) on Thursday, May 25 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
This event allows us to honor past grand marshals and introduce this year’s Grand Marshals to the parade sponsors,” said Walter Sanchez, president of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Hills.
The grand marshals are:
Community Service Grand Marshal: Robert Schnell
Veteran Grand Marshal of the Year: Anthony Sarro
Of the Year: Joseph Conley
Law Enforcement Honoree of the Year: Kevin Kehoe
First Responder Grand Marshal of the Year: Mary Kehoe
Anthony Sarro, who will be 94 in July, served in the Korean Conflict a leader of the explosive ordnance disposal team, and was selected as a veteran grand marshal.
“I’m not egoistic about it, but I do consider it an honor and it feels good,” Sarro said in an interview with the Forest Hills Times. “You get a little change in perspective of yourself. You feel a little more proud of yourself — without being egotistical.”
“If you don’t know what team leader was in the 1950s, those were the Seals before we had Seals,” Arcati said of Sarro. “The Seals teams didn’t start until the 1960s. What these people did was go underwater and diffuse bombs and torpedoes, one of the most dangerous jobs in the service.”
Sarro recalled his favorite war story during his speech: when he found the wedding ring of the wife of a fellow service member after she dropped it in the ocean.
“I found a mussel sold down here, and I flipped it aside. As the saints would have it, low and behold, there was the ring,” he said, adding that, “Other than that, we blew things up and made a lot of noise.”
Sarro’s son, Anthony Sarro Jr., is very proud of his father, attributing who he is to his father, describing him as “an enabler of good things.”
“He is a people person. He entertains, he cares, he is wise and is funny,” Sarro Jr. said.
Robert Schnell, 61, is the community service grand marshal of the year, and is part of a running list of volunteer organizations. Deemed the mayor of Forest Hills, he is a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, first Vice President of Lions Club International and former president of the Men’s Club of Forest Hills.
He is notably involved in numerous organizations devoted to the protection of military dogs.
After reading a novel called “Top Dog,” Schnell realized the impact that dogs have had both in their service in the military and to the veterans.
He volunteers with the Military Working Dog Heritage Museum, K-9 Hero Haven, Military Working Dog Team Support Association — which supports military K9s and their handlers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — Leashes of Valor and the US War Dogs Association.
Schnell holds the nickname “Mr. Dog,” as his devotion to the protection of war dogs stands alongside him in the American Legion Continental Post #1424 with a wall he ensured would be erected which displays honorable military dogs with their handlers.
Having a service dog drastically helps those leaving the service, drastically reducing veteran suicide, Schnell shared.
“The alarming thing is that the war continues and rages on for veterans that are back with us,” Schnell said. Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than nonveteran adults, according to the American Psychological Association. According to the most recent Annual Report from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs in 2022, the average number of veteran suicides per day in 2022 was 16.8.
“When you see a veteran, please say thank you for your service and ask them how they are doing,” Schnell said, “They may give you the conditional, ‘okay, I’m doing alright,’ but maybe they will open up to you.”
Joseph Connely was selected as a grand marshal for his military service, which began when he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. He was selected to be part of the Army Security Agency, whose primary mission was to locate Viet Cong transmitters operating in the south.
“I was 20 years old when I received top secret crypto clearance. People around me were 19 and 20 years old, and had top secret crypto clearance. We’d never thought of anything like this.”
Connely served as Chairman of Community Board 2 until 2014.
After 40 years of combined law service with the NYC Transit Police Department, NYC Corrections Department and the NYPD, Kevin Kehoe has been selected as the law enforcement grand marshal of the year. He is currently a lieutenant of investigations at the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
A military family — including a father who served in the Korean conflict — gave Kehoe an immense value and appreciation for the military. Holding this position in the Memorial Day parade resonated with him on a personal note.
“It’s probably the biggest honor in my life, being selected to represent the law enforcement community as a whole. Not just for New York City, but for New York State and for the country,” Kehoe said.
Over 20 years of experience, Mary Kehoe will stand beside her husband as the first responder grand marshal of the year. She is currently a public health nurse as P.S. 101, starting her career as a cardiology nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Born in Ridgewood, Kehoe moved to Forest Hills at age seven.
“To see the memorial day was always the greatest time. The people, the community, families, all out together. For me to be a grand marshal in this parade I’ve grown up with is absolutely unbelievable. I thank one and all for allowing me to do this. It’s very special to me.”
Her father was one of four men who served in the military, and the American Legion Continental Post #1424 was always an important spot for her.
“It was always a soft spot in my heart,” she said. Kehoe is among one of the people that helped save the legion when it almost closed in 2018. They have hosted four fundraisers to help support the legion.