Blind vet film producer leads Kingston Memorial Day Parade

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Marty KLein at the mic in Kingston

KINGSTON – Warm, sunny weather reaching summertime temps of 80 degrees made for a pleasant Memorial Day weekend, culminating with the annual ceremony and parade at Kingston City Hall. Spectators heard remarks from Air Force veteran Marty Klein, producer and director of a 2017 documentary film about disabled veterans called “Why Can’t We Serve?”

Klein: “… seek connection”

Klein is apparently the only blind film producer in the United States. Another partially blind filmmaker, Adam Morse, directed “Lucid” in the U.K. one year after Klein.

“He lost his sight and struggled for seven years with his blindness, before he realized he still has a chance for a meaningful life,” Kingston Veterans Association chairman Bill Forte told the audience during Klein’s introduction, before leading the retired sergeant, who served during the Vietnam war, to the microphone.

“I grew up in Brooklyn and was raised to seek perfection; 100 percent on any test I took in school, was always the goal. Anything less pointed out my failings,” Klein began. “I became obsessed with being smart, and terrified with being seen as stupid. I lived that way for years.”

Year later, Klein continued, he learned an important lesson.

“The mind always seeks perfection, but the heart – our hearts – seek connection.” He briefly discussed Memorial Day in terms of compassion, humility and gratitude. Klein asked that we keep the memory of our nation’s fallen military alive in our hearts every day.

Chairman Forte explained that Klein’s film “Why Can’t We Serve” is aimed at getting our Congress and military to allow more disabled veterans who choose to remain in the military, in non-combat positions, where they can serve with dignity and purpose. Klein was inspired to make the film after learning that 22 United States veterans take their own lives on average every single day.

Disabled veterans are commonly discharged from military service and issued disability checks, causing them to languish psychologically.

A free showing of “Why Can’t We Serve” will take place at the American Legion Post #72, 30 John Street, Saugerties, at 7 p.m. on June 5, Forte added.

Kingston Mayor Steven Noble said that he told the high school students last week, during their Memorial Day event, to be good citizens. “One of the messages that I imparted on the young men and women, was that there are many ways to serve the country. Today we honor all of those who lost their lives for freedom. But there are ways we can continue their legacy by serving our own community. What can you do right now to make our community a better place to live?”

In addition to a wreath laying and 21-gun-salute, the KHS Alumni Choir sang patriotic songs, including America the Beautiful; and the Hibernians performed Amazing Grace and the Service Medley on bagpipes. A full parade followed, with Klein as the Grand Marshall, and local fire departments, law enforcement agencies, school marching bands, military branches, elected officials, civic groups, businesses, and Uncle Willie participating.