An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | March 18, 2024

New York’s Fighting 69th Leads Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

By Avery Schneider, New York National Guard

NEW YORK - For the 173rd year in a row, Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment, marched at the head of New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade — the largest in the world.

It marked the return of the entire battalion to the front lines of the parade, following their deployment to the Horn of Africa last year. The parade also marked the first and last Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations on the streets of New York for some of the Fighting 69th Soldiers.

Master Sgt. Robert Walsh, an infantryman assigned to the 69th’s Delta Company, joined the unit in the late 1990s. He estimated he’s marched in 25 parades. After 38 years of military service, Walsh is retiring, making this year’s parade his last.

“I’m going to miss the Soldiers,” he said. “I’m going to miss having that new guy in the platoon that this is their first Saint Patrick’s Day and seeing the experiences that they’re seeing for the first time.”

And for the 800 Soldiers of the Fighting 69th, there is a lot to experience.

The parade day begins with a 6 a.m. toast of Irish whiskey at the historic Lexington Avenue Armory.

Soldiers add sprigs of boxwood to their uniforms, emulating their Irish American predecessors who fought at the Civil War battle of Fredericksburg. The unit’s officers receive blackthorn fighting sticks, imported from Ireland and considered the mark of an Irish leader and gentleman.

Before dawn, they march in formation to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, filling the streets of New York with echoing cadence calls. They attend a mass at the church to remember the regiment’s fallen and to honor its heritage.

Then, it’s off to the start of the parade.

Pfc. Danyel Rodriguez, a computer and detection systems repairer assigned to the 69th’s logistics unit, Hotel Company, 427th Brigade Support Battalion, recently arrived back from boot camp. He’s the kind of Soldier Walsh will miss.

Rodriguez was warned by his fellow Soldiers to prepare for a long day and a long march in dress uniform.

“But in the moment, singing, just walking with everyone …it didn’t feel long at all,” said Rodriguez. “Being around so many people, just singing along with everyone, it felt really nice. You just lose track of time, having a good time.”

Rodriguez, one of the battalion’s most junior Soldiers, was not this year’s only first-timer.

Lt. Col. Adam Bojarski, the battalion’s senior leader, took command of the 69th in October. This year was his first time leading the parade and marching with the unit.

“It’s a unique opportunity that nobody else in the Army gets to do,” Bojarski said.

The opportunity comes from a tradition dating back almost to the start of the 69th.

The regiment was formed in 1849 as a New York State militia of Irish immigrants. Two years later, amid anti-Irish Catholic sentiment, they were asked to lead the parade and fend off any attackers.

Today, key partners, including the New York Police Department, ensure the safety of the parade and the public. A squad of 69th Soldiers still makes a traditional “show of force” by marching in “battle rattle” — combat uniforms, body armor and helmets, with rifles and machine guns.

“Traditions like these are fading out of our society,” Bojarski said. “It’s so important that units like the 69th continue to be the face of the Army National Guard and the National Guard as a whole.”

Bojarski said the battalion will continue leading the parade for years to come. And while they’ll do it without Walsh, he’s hopeful those who march in his place gain from the experience.

“I hope they take away pride and this amazing feeling you get as you’re marching in the parade and listening to thousands of people cheer you,” he said.

“We all joined the military for a reason. A lot of times when you’re marching in the parade, that reason — whatever it may be — comes to your heart and to your mind.”

 

 

Related Articles
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Carlos Garcia, left, and Spc. Samantha Bruce, perform military funeral honors at the burial of Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux, a 100-year old New York National Guard veteran of the World War II Battle of Saipan, at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Waterford, New York, May 7, 2024. Mailloux survived the war’s largest Japanese banzai attack, which killed 502 Soldiers in the New York National Guard’s 105th Infantry Regiment on July 7, 1944.
New York Guard Says Farewell to 100-year-old Guard Veteran
By Petty Officer 1st Class Stephanie Butler and Eric Durr, | May 16, 2024
WATERFORD, N.Y. - A 100-year-old New York National Guard World War II veteran who survived the bloody Battle of Saipan was honored by a New York Army National Guard Honor Guard team as he was laid to rest May 7. Cpl. Wilfred...

New York Army National Guard medics assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, conduct a road march in New York City May 16, 2021. In the 2024 Northeast region Best Warrior Competition, 16 Soldiers from New York, New Jersey and New England will participate in events across New York state.
New York Army Guard Hosts Regional Best Warrior Competition
By Eric Durr, | May 10, 2024
NEW YORK - The Northeast region Best Warrior Competition, hosted by the New York Army National Guard May 13-17, will be held at locations across the state.The 16 Soldiers from New York, New Jersey and New England competing to...

African Lion provides an opportunity to conduct realistic, dynamic and collaborative readiness training in an austere environment that intersects multiple geographic and functional combatant commands, including U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Central Command, and strategic maritime choke points and global shipping lanes.
New York Army Guard Soldiers Heading to North Africa
By Eric Durr, | April 30, 2024
LATHAM, N.Y. - Seven hundred New York Army National Guard Soldiers will take part in the multinational African Lion training exercise in Tunisia and Morocco in May.Most of the New York National Guard Soldiers involved in the...