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American Legion Manhasset Post 304

A Beautiful Memorial Day Weekend

The American Legion Manhasset Post 304 proclaimed the theme of this year’s parade “Honoring Women in the Service.” The three-day Memorial Day weekend was filled with sunshine and began early Saturday morning with Legionnaires and Boy Scouts, with their parents, flagging the veteran’s graves at the Pinelawn National Cemetery. Some 30 to 35 Scouts from the Post sponsored Boy Scouts of America Troop 97 and Cub Scout Pack 101, together with the Legionnaires, and with great reverence and respect, placed small American flags in front of each veteran’s grave. On Sunday morning, Legionnaires and the Women’s Auxiliary attended ecumenical services at Christ Episcopal Church. The service was conducted by the Reverend David Lowery with more than 40 Post and Auxiliary members in attendance.

The Nassau County Police Department Motorcycle Unit escorted the Memorial Day Parade as it began sharply at 10 a.m. The parade was led by the American Legion Commander James T. Brooks and his staff and the U.S. Army 319th Statue of Liberty Band directed by CWO Stephen Joseph, Bandmaster. The Manhasset Post Legionnaires and the Auxiliary were followed by a long line of antique vehicles transporting the Poppy Queen and those unable to march. The parade continued with columns of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, other children’s groups, community groups and community service groups. The finale of the parade always is the two local fire departments marching smartly in their red and blue uniforms followed by the long line of glistening, red and often amazing fully staffed “fire” emergency vehicles. Wreaths were placed at the WWI Memorial at the Manhasset Railroad Station and at the Manhasset Gold Star Veterans Memorial at Mary Jane Davis Green Park. The six parade divisions concluded their march by assembling in formation at Memorial Field where memorial services were held.

At Memorial Field, Post Commander James T. Brooks opened the ceremonies by introducing Mrs. Catherine Lau, accompanied by the Manhasset School Band under the direction of Randy Knudsen, who led the audience in singing the National Anthem. The invocation was given by the Reverend James Only, Pastor of the Congregational Church of Manhasset. The Poppy Queen, Miss Juliette de Venoge of Saint Mary’s College Preparatory High School, was introduced and the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies presented the floral tributes to the honored dead. Post Chaplain James R. Russell read the roll call of deceased veterans accompanied by drummer Mr. Raffi Froundjian of Manhasset High School. Twenty veterans from the community passed away last year. Mr. Nicholas DiPreta and Mr. William Kim of the Manhasset High School Band and SFC Gregory Hall of the 319th Statue of Liberty Band played Taps.

Vice Commander Patrick J. McGreal, Youth Chairman, read the citations for the School Awards while Commander James T. Brooks made the presentation to Mr. Thomas Lavin of Manhasset High School and Mr. Ali Aslam of St. Mary’s College Preparatory High School. The Boy’s State Awards were also presented to: Mr. Michael Bode and Mr. Martin Donoyan, Manhasset High School; Mr. John Prufeta, Manhasset BSA Troop 71; and Mr. Alexander Ardito, and Mr. Douglas Sostar, both of Manhasset BSA Troop 97.

American Legion Auxiliary President Doris Bezkor presented the School Awards to Miss Katherine Dillon of Manhasset High School and Miss Lauren Joyce of Saint Mary’s College Preparatory High School. She also presented the Girl’s State Award to Poppy Queen Miss Juliette de Venoge, Saint Mary’s College Preparatory High School.

 Commander Brooks recognized longtime Manhasset resident Mr. Brian Kenny, for his over 30 years serving this community and the American Legion Manhasset Post. Mr. Kenny was presented with an “American Legion Certificate of Appreciation” citing his outstanding services and assistance contributing to the Advancement of American Legion Programs and activities.

Commander Brooks reminded everyone that “none of us can repay the sacrifice of those who gave their lives defending us, but at the very least, we can and we must remember them.” He spoke of Major Charles Loring, U.S. Air Force, a POW during WWII. During the Korean conflict, in an action against deadly enemy gun positions, his aircraft was repeatedly hit by ground fire. Charles Loring, in an effort to remove the threat to other pilots and friendly ground forces, deliberately crashed into the enemy emplacements. Major Loring was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Marine Major Megan McClung was initially a public affairs officer. In 2006, she voluntarily returned to active duty being assigned to Iraq. She had previously worked for a defense contractor in 2004 and was aware of the dangers inherent in that part of the world. On a routine performance for her job, while escorting members of the media, she was killed by a roadside bomb. A journalist who worked with Major McClung wrote, “ She was a sharp and talented young woman…who can never be replaced.”

Commander Brooks spoke about the members of the families left behind. He quoted President Lincoln’s promise to “not just care for him who shall have borne the battle, but his widow and his orphan.” He continued, “Remembering the fallen once a year is not enough. We must continue the legacy for which they died: democracy, decency and patriotism.” And we should not forget those who have pledged to make the same sacrifice if called upon—those still serving in Iraq, Afganistan, the United States and in more than 130 foreign lands.

The ceremonies concluded with the Benediction given by Reverend Everett Zabriskie, Pastor, Community Reformed Church of Manhasset and the singing of God Bless America, led by Mrs. Catherine Lau accompanied by U.S. Army 319th Statue of Liberty Band directed by CWO Stephen Joseph, Bandmaster.