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Manhasset Dedicates Standalone WWII Memorial

Larry Kaplan had a dream, and on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, it came true. Although Manhasset already had several memorials recognizing those who served in the military during wartime, it now has one dedicated solely to remembering World War II, the most significant and costliest war in the nation’s history.

It took about four years but Mr. Kaplan was persistent and from the podium he thanked Commander Selwyn G. Rudnick, commander of Manhasset Post 5063 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who supported the project from the outset, sending a letter of support to the Manhasset Park District Commissioners. He thanked George Becker as well as other World War II veterans, and he thanked Manhasset Park Commissioners Mark Sauvigne and Ann Marie Curd, but especially Park District Chairman Bernard Rolston who, he said, designed and supervised the construction of the memorial, the bulk of which was undertaken by park district employees.

The memorial recognizes the men and women in uniform throughout America who served during that catastrophic period, 1941-1945. It also honors the civilian population, all those who served the war effort by working in factories, building planes, tanks, trucks, jeeps and guns, buying war bonds, collecting scrap metal and planting victory gardens. The war had total civilian support as people worked together toward the common goal of victory. Manhasset’s memorial commemorates the service and sacrifice of America’s World War II generation, often referred to as the Greatest Generation.

In the invocation, Fr. Sikorsky said all were gathered to honor those who served their country and preserved our freedoms in all wars, especially WW II. Freedom, he said, is not free, but paid for with the blood of the young and the tears of the old.

World War II was successful in overcoming the tyranny of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The concepts of liberty and justice for all, ideals of America’s democracy, served as a beacon of light for the world. These ideals were spread to three continents where battles raged: Europe, Africa and Asia.

Bernard Rolston said that years ago when Larry Kaplan approached him about establishing a World War II memorial, Kaplan wanted a monument to educate young people about the global initiative of the war. Eventually the planned memorial included a reflecting pool, representing, Rolston said, how the world was cleansed of despots and a waterfall feature indicating world peace demands a constant vigil. The educational feature is the map of the world embedded at the bottom of the reflecting pool with lights marking the major battles of WWII, clearly depicting the war as a global event.

The headstone, mirroring that generation, is simple, Rolston said, a rock, representing the generation that was “the rock of the earth,” displaying a bronze plaque that declares, “Dedicated by the Manhasset VFW Post 5063 honoring the courageous men and women who served during World War II.”

Lawrence Kaplan spoke of the significance of World War II, noting 16.1 million men and women in the United States were in uniform. Financially the cost was $4.1 trillion and those figures taken together, Kaplan said, stagger the imagination.

Commander Matthew Falcone, Manhasset American Legion Post 304, spoke of big wars and small town America, saying that in 1943 most soldiers were volunteers, most of them from small towns like Manhasset. After Pearl Harbor all that changed, he said, when 10 million were drafted between the ages of 18 and 38. In 1945, with the war at peak strength, 12 million GIs served, and overall 16 million served, Falcone said, one third of those women. Blue and gold service stars were hung in the windows of those at war. A blue star indicated service to your country, while gold represented a soldier killed in battle, and too many homes displayed those stars.

During the war, Falcone continued, there was a population migration, a full one quarter of the population moved out of small towns to industrial areas, which from 1940-1950 grew by one-fifth. The war changed the face of small town America, he said, including Manhasset.

At that time the only means of communication was mail and, Falcone explained, war stories were recorded that way.

It is too easy to forget, and Falcone hoped those passing the memorial would remember the contributions of small town America.

George Becker, earlier, had let those assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance; Betty DeVries sang the Star Spangled Banner. Swlwyn Rudnick spoke on veterans of foreign wars.

Local attorney Rita Eredics commented, “70 years after World War II ended the memories and sense of patriotism are still intensely felt, and the community gathered today to dedicate this memorial and to pray and to remember.”

Corey McClusker, 13, is becoming a fixture at these events playing the bagpipes. He has been playing for about two years. Many local officials shared the dais with young Corey, including Legislator Michelle Schimel, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Town Clerk Leslie Gross, Councilwoman Maria-Christina Poons, and Councilman Angelo Ferrara.

The dedication ceremony planning committee included: Lawrence J. Kaplan, chairman, George E. Becker, co-chairman, James T. Brooks, Matthew Falcone, Carl Lalena, Donald O’Brien, Bernard Rolston, and Selwyn Rudnick.

The committee thanked the men of the Manhasset Park District who constructed the tribute: Russ Callery, Ralph Esposito, Mike Ilkiw, Mark Ilkiw, Jamie Murphy, Paul Narain and Vinnie Varisco.

The memorial is located on Shelter Rock Road at the grassy strip south of, and adjacent to, the Lord & Taylor Department store.

The Seventh Day Adventists graciously allowed parking on their property for the ceremony.