MARCH 2021 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 61
MONTAUK’S HEROIC ASSEMBLYMAN
BY SELIA MERCADO
Former New York State Assemblyman John Behan
(R-Montauk), a Vietnam War veteran, U.S. Wheelchair
Olympics gold medalist, and longtime champion of the
East End, died on Jan. 28. He was 76.
Born and raised on Long Island, Behan graduated
from East Hampton High School in 1963 after serving
as president of the student body, then joined the U.S.
Marine Corps. He served with the 6th and 7th Fleets
before joining the 1st Marine Division for a tour of
duty in Vietnam in 1965, when he lost both of his legs
in combat. After retiring with the rank of sergeant and
learning to walk again with the use of artificial limbs,
he won gold medals in the javelin throw, and medaled in
shotput, discus and as a member of the basketball team
on the U.S. Wheelchair Olympics team in 1972 and 1976
before starting his career in politics. He first served as
East Hampton Town Assessor and then succeeded state
Assemblyman Perry Duryea as the South Fork’s Albany
representative in 1978, serving for 16 years before
becoming the director of the State Division of Veterans
Affairs in the Gov. George Pataki administration.
“At a time when these terms are thrown around far too
carelessly, John was a true American hero and patriot,”
said state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), Behan’s
predecessor. “His life was dedicated to serving his
country, state and community.”
Former New York State Assemblyman John Behan with his wife, Marilyn.
For his service to the Marine Corps, Behan was decorated
seven times and was honored with the Conspicuous
Service Cross, New York State’s highest military honor.
He participated in the Fourth Pan American Games
held in Peru and the first International Games for the
Disabled held in Canada. As an assemblyman, Behan
organized a Vietnam Veterans Caucus and received
national recognition as State Legislator of the Year for
In 1985, Behan led the historic New York State Delegation
to Vietnam and later that year was tapped to lead
the “Welcome Home Parade to Vietnam Veterans” down
the famed canyon of heroes alongside then-New York
City Mayor Ed Koch.
He is survived by his wife Marilyn and three children,
Jason, Jack, and Bridget. He was buried at Calverton
National Cemetery on Feb. 8.