Robert McGuire leads the audience in singing our National Anthem.
Manhasset's traditional Memorial Day Parade was rained out this year, to the disappointment of marchers and watchers alike, but the Memorial Day Ceremony took place in the auditorium at Manhasset High School. The rain was especially unwelcome this year because Public Access Television planned to film the parade, under the direction of Manhasset High School alumnus Brian Clemency. The American Legion's Richard Miller began the program by telling the story of the origin of Decoration Day after the American Civil War.
Members of the Manhasset High School Band, led by Randy Knudsen, then accompanied Legionnaire Robert McGuire as he led the audience in singing our National Anthem. Jim Russell, who directed this year's parade, then introduced American Legion Post #304 Commander Edward J. Gaus. Commander Gaus called on Rev. William O'Rourke of St. Mary's R. C. Church to give the invocation. Following Father O'Rourke's invocation, Nancy Fernandez, this year's Poppy Queen, was escorted to the stage by the Sergeant-at-Arms. Chaplain William A. Baxter then read the Roll Call of the Honored Dead, accompanied by Lee Meryash, Manhasset High School drummer.
Manhasset American Legion Post #304 Vice Commander John F. Keitz, the post's Youth Chairman, then presented the youth awards. Mr. Keitz told the audience "the future of the community and the nation is in good hands, thanks to these remarkable young men." The School Awards went to Daniel Nolan of St. Mary's High School and John Patrick Bennett of Manhasset High School. Mr. Nolan will be attending Georgetown University in the fall and Mr. Bennett will be attending Stanford University. Mr. Keitz drew a laugh from the crowd when, after telling the name of Patrick Bennett's Intel entry, he said, "Don't feel bad if you don't understand it. I have a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's in engineering and he just had to explain it to me." The Boys' State awards were given to Joseph Vogel of Boy Scout Troop 97, a student at Friends Academy, James Alexander of Troop 97, a student at St. Mary's High School, Christopher Bianco from St. Mary's High School and Christopher Imperiale from Chaminade High School. Theresa Bogner Bjorkman, president of the Women's Auxiliary of Post 304, then called on Marilyn Furlong, Americanism Chairlady, to present the School Award to Jillian Sala of Manhasset High School. Barbara Pierce, Girls State Chairlady, then introduced this year's Poppy Queen, Nancy Fernandez of Manhasset High School, and presented her with the Girls' State Award. After presentation of floral tributes by a number of Brownie and Girl Scout troops, Commander Gaus made a few remarks.
He thanked his audience for coming and making a "public display of patriotism" to honor those who died so that we might be free. The theme of this year's program was "Enduring Freedom." Since September 11, 2002, Commander Gaus said, "The military is once again protecting us."
In his Benediction, Rev. Jimmy Only of The Congregational Church of Manhasset, called upon God to protect the nation and the world, which are "beset by violence, with too many lives lost."
Legionnaire Robert McGuire and the Statue of Liberty Band then closed the proceedings with a moving rendition of God Bless America.