VIDEO: Kensington WW II vet honored with surprise birthday parade

Morris Semiatin of Kensington, Maryland, has lived a special life, and every year his son Ben Semiatin tries to do something special for his dad’s birthday.

Man with LBJ
President Lyndon B. Johnson (left), with Morris Semiatin (right), in an undated photo. (Courtesy Ben Semiatin)

In World War II, Morris served in the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima and received a Purple Heart after a grenade sent shrapnel into his leg.

“He then became a White House news photographer from 1951 until 1985,” said Ben Semiatin.

“Any president, world leader, politician, movie star [or] sports star who came into the White House and the Oval Office, more than likely my dad took their picture.”

This year, with father turning 94 and coronavirus concerns keeping him housebound most of the time for his own safety, Semiatin, who lives in Ocean City, asked Montgomery County police and the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department for help honoring his dad.

They suggested a parade down Morris’ street.

Semiatin passed out 45 flyers to neighbors detailing the plan, and inviting them to line Dunnel Lane for the socially-distanced fun.

Almost 100 people came out Monday morning, June 1, some waving American flags.

First, the neighbors sang “Happy Birthday,” then down the street came a parade of vehicles led by two officers on motorcycles. There were police cars and several huge fire trucks.

The Purple Heart recipient stood outside in a Marines sweatshirt and birthday top hat, waving as they passed.

“He was in awe. He could not believe it. He was in shock.”

Next came a surprise, one that not even Semiatin knew was coming for his father.

Man with folded American flag.
Morris Semiatin of Kensington, Maryland, seen here celebrating his 94th birthday on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Courtesy Ben Semiatin)

A Marine, accompanied by a police officer, walked over to Morris Semiatin and gave him a folded American flag.

Later, he received a Marines flag too.

“It just made his day.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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