The Atlantic Steamer Fire Company leading a long contingent of fire trucks stretching down to East Main Street.
The Oyster Bay-East Norwich community joined the nation in honoring the veterans who died to make us free. Parade chairman, Past Commander Reginald Butt Jr. gave the opening prayer, as the chaplain of the American Legion. The 81st Memorial Day Parade was held on May 29. The service was held in view of the monuments, on South Street, where the names of local service personnel who died in the service of their country are memorialized on the bronze tablets.
The stars and stripes were at half-mast as the ceremony began, just before noon. "The nation's flag is at half-mast on two occasions, from dawn to noon on Memorial Day and as decreed by the President of the United States," explained Mr. Butt, as the American flag slowly rose up the pole, followed by the black MIA flag.
American Legion Quentin Roosevelt Post No. 4 Commander Harold A. Havekotte welcomed a time to pause, reflect and honor our American war dead. "Let us honor those who have died so we can live in peace and freedom in this wonderful land of ours," he said.
Ann Ranaldo, president of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary talked of the duty of the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier representing all those who died un-named. She said there is a daily ritual of guards dedicated to them. There are crowds that visit during the day, but they walk their tour of duty in total reverence, alone at night in eternal vigilance.
Reginald Butt, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the day was one of national mourning for all our veterans. "We remember the death of our countrymen in warfare. This is a civic debt which can only be paid by individual Americans. One million veterans died for the defense of freedom and we celebrate that freedom and liberty and a commitment to preserve what they died for."
He said there are still veterans who are missing in action: 78,000 from WWII; 8,100 from the Korean War which includes 389 once listed as Prisoners of War; in South Asia there are over 2,000 still missing, he said. It is not that there aren't programs to find them, it is just that they are so painfully slow. But, he added, "We must not forget them."
Those missing in WWII he said might have been caught behind the Russian lines or their remains were so scattered, that their whereabouts will never be known.
"From Korea, we get two or three a year, but it is just so slow, we will never catch up at that rate," he said.
While friends and family suffer grief - there is also a joy that they served the greatest nation on earth. "May mighty God bless them and God bless America," he said.
Memorial wreaths were laid by veterans in honor of their dead; American Legion Commander Harold Havekotte; American Legion Ladies Auxiliary President Ann Ranaldo; Past VFW Commander John Bruckner; John Paterson for the Knights of Columbus; Legionaire Al Agostinello for his brothers Gerald and Joseph who died in WWII; Marie Baade placed a wreath for her uncle John M. Ferro who died in WWII.
Mr. Butt read the list of veterans of both the VFW and the Legion who died this past year; William Votapka, Emile Noto, Joseph Daniel, Nick Ranaldo, Frank Melillo, Ralph Minicozzi, Louis Abbate, Carl Jackson, Robert Plummer, and John Bruschini.
The firing squad fired off several rounds and Taps was played.
The Rev. Robert Costello of the North Shore Assembly of God gave the closing benediction. He thanked the veterans who laid down their lives so we all can live in peace. Reginald Butt thanked all the participants and all who stayed to listen to the ceremony. This year, more people than ever attended the event. He said a desk was set up nearby, to welcome new members.
Everyone agreed it had been a beautiful service.
There had been a ceremony at Ship's Point Lane to remember those who died at sea. At the Atlantic Steamer Fire House, members of both Oyster Bay companies remembered those who died this year.