Written by Betsy Abraham, email@example.com Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
Attendees of the Port Washington Memorial Day parade might see a familiar face waving from the American Legion convertible this year. 90-year-old army veteran Ed Balcourt will be this year’s Grand Marshal.
Balcourt, who was raised in Brooklyn, was attending medical school at the height of the U.S. involvement in World War II. He was deferred from the draft, but at 19, decided to join the army.
“All my friends had been drafted. When I walked outside, I could feel all the women looking at me. I felt a little guilty. I wanted to go fight,” Balcourt said.
He was sent to Fort Dix, N.J. for basic training and in 1943 was sent overseas to the Pacific.
“You take a guy from New York City and put him in the jungle, and you have to learn first-hand how to live,” Balcourt says.
He was on active duty for almost two years before coming down with malaria while in the Solomon Islands. After leaving the hospital, he was sent to join a troop called Special Services and Entertainment Group, which took care of USO shows. He handled the PA system for shows such as Bob Hope and Oklahoma, traveling from one island to another. “That year in the army was nice. I never knew that group had existed, but I enjoyed it,” Balcourt said.
When the war was over, Balcourt was discharged in Seattle. Under the GI Bill, he finished a degree in art studies at Pratt Institute. He got married, had three boys, and a 40-year career in the illustration business, where he worked on book covers and movie posters. After retiring, he taught art at Syracuse University and then at a school in Florida.
Today, Balcourt still teaches art at two local senior centers. He calls himself a proud member of the American Legion Post 509. “The legion is a nice mix of boys,” Balcourt says affectionately. “It’s a nice mix of Coast Guard, Navy, Army and all branches of war. Everybody had their own experiences.”
Balcourt was chosen to be the Grand Marshal of the parade by post commander Arthur George, and is excited to represent the legion alongside his friends in the parade. “I think it’s a big honor,” Balcourt said. “In a small town like this, it’s a very big honor.”