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L.B. shows support for wounded veterans

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Hundreds of residents honored wounded veterans at the Long Beach Waterfront Warriors 11th annual 5K and parade on July 14.

Eighteen military families were given a week’s vacation in Long Beach which included a trip to the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, surf lessons by Skudin Surf, a fishing trip and a concert on the beach, among other activities.

“They are overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection and attention that they received from everyone, as it completely unexpected,” said John McLaughlin, a retired New York City firefighter, who co-founded the non-profit with Jerry Snell in 2009.

An annual fundraiser on July 13 at the Inn kicked off the weekend, and McLaughin estimated that the organization raised nearly $20,000. He said that the big raffle items included two trips to Utah and Puerto Rico that went for $4,000 each.

The next morning began with a 5K race that featured more than 200 runners, who participated in the 3.1-mile run. The winner of the race was Shlomo Schreiber with a time of 16 minutes, 35 seconds. Veronica Szyglowicz was the first female runner to cross the finish line with a time of 21:09.

The annual parade stepped off from Ohio Avenue, where hundreds gathered along West Beech Street to watch and honor the wounded veterans. The local Veterans for Foreign Wars, the Long Beach Fire Department, a motorcycle club and a bagpipe band were among those who marched. A barbecue at Long Beach Catholic Regional School followed the parade.

“The parade was great and well attended by the residents from Long Beach, as has been the case for the past 11 years,” McLaughlin said.

The nonprofit organization arranges a week-long vacation in Long Beach for the veterans and their families, with a stay at the Allegria Hotel.

Lance Cpl. Corey Uhrig of the U.S. Marine Corps, who was among the first group of veterans who met the Waterfront Warriors 11 years ago, is among the 18 families visiting this year.

“It means a lot because one of the Marines, Corey Uhrig, coming this year was an original member to benefit from the fundraiser,” McLaughlin said.

Uhrig and his wife, Kaitlin, will be returning to Long Beach after a nine-year absence. McLaughlin met Uhrigh while he was being treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Over the years, McLaughlin said the organization has brought many other soldiers from Walter Reed; many of the veterans suffer from injuries and conditions sustained in combat, including lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries, gunshot wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Waterfront Warriors give residents a chance to show their support for injured veterans, with many undergoing treatment at Walter Reed.

The organization also sends hundreds of care packages overseas to service members during the holidays each year.

McLaughlin said that the veterans appreciate the social atmosphere of the parade.

“When the parade starts, it gets crowded and people know the soldiers are coming,” McLaughin said. “The soldiers love it and it really is a great day.”