Bill de Blasio speaks about his father’s military service on Veterans Day

bill de blasio veteran
Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio made a rare testimonial about his deceased father during a speech before marching in the Veterans Day Parade Monday.
Credit: Miles Dixon/Metro

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio made a rare testimonial about his deceased father during a speech honoring veterans like him Monday.

“For so many of us, this is a day we think about larger issues that confront our nation, we think about the men and women that have served. But for a lot of us, of course, it’s very personal,” de Blasio said at a ceremony before marching in the Veterans Day Parade.

“In my family, the service of our family members framed so much of our lives. My father served in the Pacific of World War II in combat, in a number of key battles, including the Battle of Okinawa where he lost his leg. And he carried the physical and emotional challenges ever after,” de Blasio said.

Warren Wilhelm struggled with alcoholism and divorced from de Blasio’s mother when the mayor-elect was young. He eventually killed himself while battling cancer in 1979.

Born Warren Wilhelm Jr., de Blasio legally took his mother’s maiden name in college. De Blasio seldom speaks about his father.

De Blasio said he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, both had parents who were involved in the war effort directly. His mother worked at the Office of War Information during World War II.

McCray’s father served in the Army in Eurpoe and her mother worked at the Springfield Armory.

“The stories, the memories, the meaning of that, carried on until this day,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio promised that that his upcoming administration would continue in the tradition of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose efforts to help veterans he praised.

Bloomberg told the audience that they were “blessed” to have de Blasio as mayor-elect.

During his own remarks, a heckler in army fatigues stood up and shouted at Bloomberg.

“F— you! Power to the people!” the man said, mumbling “stop stop-and-frisk” before being led out of the audience.

Responding calmly with “okay” and “thank you,” Bloomberg added, “Let me just point out something, in no other country could somebody do that.”

The mayor also said that he would continue to honor veterans next year, though he won’t share a stage with de Blasio.

“When I was first elected mayor, there was still smoke rising from the World Trade Center site and that was a very difficult time — our men and women in the armed forces were bravely stepping up to confront new threats and ensure our safety,” Bloomberg said. “Because of them, our city and our nation has kept growing.”

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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