In a series of wonderful tributes, the members of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of New Hyde Park, Williston Park and Garden City Park all held impressive parades and ceremonies to remember the many members of the armed forces who have died in order to preserve our freedom.
The New Hyde Park parade was held on a picture-perfect Saturday. The parade, after stopping for a short tribute on the grounds of the New Hyde Park Village Hall where the rock displays all the names of the New Hyde Park veterans, headed north on New Hyde Park Road and wound-up in Memorial Park on the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Wilton Road.
At the newly constructed stage in the park, the New Hyde Park Village ceremony began with an Invocation by the Reverend Eric Olsen, pastor, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Then New Hyde Park Village Mayor Daniel Petruccio delivered a very moving speech taken in part from the '88 Decoration Day speech of the 19th century orator Robert Green Ingersoll. In part Petruccio quoted, "These heroes are dead. They died for liberty -- they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Palace of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars -- they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: Cheers for the living; tears for the dead."
The ceremony then proceeded with the placing of the wreaths by Grand Marshal Louis Blanken of the VFW and New Hyde Park American Legion Commander Chuck Ulrich.
After a rifle volley to salute the war dead, the ceremony ended with a benediction by the Reverend A.M. Staganelli, pastor of Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church, followed by Anna Gavin singing the national anthem.
The parade was retired and the entire assembly was invited back to Marcus Christ Hall for a huge cookout of hot dogs and hamburgers.
The Williston Park American Legion Post No. 144 held its 50th Everlasting Services also on a beautiful Memorial Day.
The morning started off with a Benediction delivered by the Reverend Robert Hayden, Pastor of St. Aidan's Roman Catholic Church.
Nassau County Clerk Maureen O'Connell then, in glowing terms, introduced the guest speaker New York State Senator Michael Balboni. Balboni listed all the heroes who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor including Audie Murphy, Sgt. York, General McArthur and United States Senator Robert Kerry, who lost a leg in Vietnam.
He then made a personal plea for a young man from upstate New York, Corporal Jason Dunn to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Balboni said that Dunn through his courageous efforts prevented many from being killed by a grenade. Dunn saw the grenade and dove onto it. Balboni said that he didn't die right away. He continued, "He suffered for a few weeks and then died and he should be honored. In order to do that please log on to my website, mike balboni.com or Senator Balboni.com. Thank you and God Bless America and God Bless all of you."
The rest of the service was very moving including the roll call of departed comrades, read by American Legion Commander Jack Afonso, including: Joseph Barbera, Charles Fingerle, Steven Husowitz, Carmen LaBella, Robert Menzel, Michael Romano, John Swystun, Robert Wood, Joseph DeAngelis, Gilbert Gold, Edward Kenny, Robert La Rose, Michael Quinn, Edwin Smutney, Arthur Wood and Thomas Lappin. Unit President Kayderby read the following names of the departed: Gladys Blake, Joan Digasso, Lucille Finamore, Virginia Sienkiewicz, Cecelia Biolsi, Jean Elefonte and Bernadette Mullen.
Toward the end of the ceremony survivors of those who have died all received a little gift from Commander Jack Afonso.
The Garden City Park parade steps off its parade from the VFW headquarters on Jericho Turnpike and heads to the Garden City Park School located on Central Avenue. The ceremony was headed by Commander Reno Staffa. The guest speaker was Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello, who gave a brief, but stirring speech expressing the gratitude of all to the many veterans who have died to protect all of us.
Then in quick succession Staffa called to the podium, for a few words, the President of the New Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Christopher Vulpis, past President Florence Lisanti, New York State Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt and North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman.
The ceremony ended with the parade reassembling and marching back to the VFW headquarters on Jericho Turnpike.