Holland Tunnel Shut Down for Wounded Warriors on a Special Trip to NYC
The Baltimore Sun: New York - The bus carrying Cody Stanton and other wounded soldiers breezed up Interstate 95 on Tuesday to the site of the former World Trade Center in New York, with an escort arranged by Baltimore's police commissioner.
The side door opened, and Stanton, who lost his legs and two fingers in an explosion in Afghanistan, was lowered on his wheelchair. More than one hundred construction workers were protesting working conditions at the site, but when they saw the soldiers, they suddenly broke into a thunderous applause, chanting "USA! USA!"
This was more than Stanton had in mind when he signed up to take in a taping of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," but Commissioner Frederick H Bealefeld III had even bigger plans for the trip.
Bealefeld, who within the next few days will doff his police uniform after a career of 31 years, including five at the helm of one of the nation's largest police departments, has been quietly organizing trips for wounded warriors for the past three years.
First he and his staff began visiting the now-defunct Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Then they organized motorcades to carry soldiers to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to sit in the governor's box.
Last year, he and his chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, decided to take it up a notch, organizing a trip to New York. The Pentagon and a nonprofit called Operation Homefront cover the expenses.
"We want to impress them with the VIP treatment," Bealefeld said. "They're heroic in our eyes, but they don't think of themselves as the guy who gets the motorcycle escort. The small stuff matters."
There are various trips and programs arranged for wounded troops, who can flip through a book and sign up themselves and their relatives. William P. McFadden, chairman of the board of directors for Operation Homefront, a group that supports service members and their families, said Baltimore's efforts are "one of the most, impressive, dramatic programs."
Most of those aboard the bus thought they only were taking a trip to see "Late Night." But the New York Police Department doesn't shut down the Holland Tunnel for every group headed into the city for a show. The visit also included a private lunch at Tribeca Grill, a restaurant co-owned by the actor Robert de Niro.
At Ground Zero, after the show of thanks from the union workers and other tourists who rushed to see what the commotion was about, the group was whisked into the park where the World Trade Center towers once stood. New buildings being constructed there, and a massive fountain, etched with the names of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, lies where the north tower once stood.
For the full Baltimore Sun Article Click Here click on Cory Stanton’s T-Shirt “Wounded Warrior (some assembly required)” to hear him talk about the trip.
Click Here for Photo Gallery of Trip