Semper fi: NYPD honors Marines among their ranks

NYPD salutes the Marines
The NYPD Marine Corps Association celebrates the 247th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The NYPD Marine Corps Association celebrated the 247th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) on Nov. 4 at One Police Plaza with an award ceremony recognizing Marines who joined New York’s Finest.

Police Officers Kevin Garay and Christopher Bamfo received the Patrolmen Gregory Foster & Rocco Laurie Uncommon Valor Award; Officer Felix Vargas, a Purple Heart recipient, received the Sgt. John Coughlin Eagle, Globe & Anchor Award; Detective Joel Bolivar, also a Purple Heart recipient, was awarded the Sgt. Michael Curtin Semper Fidelis Award; Captain Hariton Marachilian received the Detective Louis Miller Jr. Leadership Award, and retired Lieutenant David Ebert received the Police Officer Vincent Danz Leatherneck Award.

Gerardo Caballero, president of the NYPD Marine Corps Association, shared that the NYPD Marine Corps Association is about 500 members strong.

Caballero, who served in the Marines for 14 years before joining the NYPD 12 years ago, decided to join New York’s Finest because he wanted to continue serving the community.

“By joining the NYPD, I was going to be able to do just that,” Caballero said.

He explained that the NYPD Marine Corps Association, which has been around for 29 years, ensures that all Marines turned NYPD officers know that they have brothers and sisters from the military in case they need anything.

“We are here to be able to bring that spirit, decor and the values that we bring from the Marines into the NYPD, which are honor, courage, and commitment,” Caballero said.

NYPD salutes the Marines
USMC Brigadier General Farrell J. Sullivan, Chief Tobin, and NYPD PO Caballero celebrate UMSC’s 247th birthday. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
NYPD police officer Felix Vargas receives the Sgt. John Coughlin award. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Besides looking after their fellow brothers and sisters in arms, the association also organizes community-focused events. Upcoming events are a toy drive in December and a coat drive for veterans with the American Legion Post 460.

“We make sure that no veteran, or no person for that matter, goes without a code for this winter season,” Caballero said.

Retired NYPD Deputy Inspector Raymond Hart represented the “Greatest Generation” and received the Centurion Award. The 100-years-old Hart served in World War II from March 1942 through 1945 as a paratrooper. After the war, he joined the NYPD in 1946 and retired in 1982.

He had brought the helmet he had worn during the battle of Iwo Jima. The helmet had two holes where an enemy’s bullet had entered and excited.

Retired NYPD deputy inspector Raymond Hart and oldest living U.S. Marine holds his helmet he wore during the Iwo Jima invasion. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Hart was bending down to help a fellow soldier who had been shot when the bullet hit him, bouncing off his skull. His head was ringing from the impact, and blood ran down his face.

After he had been checked and his wound covered with a bandage, he kept fighting.

After the presentation of the colors by the USMC and NYPD color guards, the rendition of the National Anthem, and the invocation by NYPD Chief Chaplain Rabbie Dr. Alvin Kass, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell thanked the retired and reserve USMC soldiers for their service to the country and NYPD.

“Whether it’s in the Marines or in the NYPD, your vow comes with great risk, and it never wanes,” Sewell said.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell speaks at the USMC birthday celebration. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
NYPD officer Gerardo Caballero and Chief Tobin present retired NYPD deputy inspector and former Marine Raymond Hart with the Centurion Award. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Guest of honor, USMC Brigadier General Farrell J. Sullivan, said there were many similarities between New York cops and Marines.

“There are a lot of similarities in the sacrifices you have to make,” Farrell said. “There’s a shared sense of duty, of selfless service. Being competent and professional in what you do day in and day out, loyalty. Not wanting to let those to your left or right down, and the list goes on. But risk is probably what we share the most.”

NYPD police officer Julio M. Mateus is a USMC reservist. On Nov. 1, Mateus, a master sergeant, will embark on his seventh deployment in 19 years with the corps, taking him to the Middle East after training in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He served three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and Jordan, among others.

It’s his third time deploying since he joined the NYPD 10 years ago, and he said that the commissioner and his commanding officer have always been “aces” when it comes to his deployments, and he’s always welcomed back with “open arms.”

“It’s always great to see that, yes, I have a job,” Mateus said. “Usually, they send me emails to see if I’m doing okay, or they send me a care package.”