A glistening sun joined the community in turning out to honor those who lost their lives when serving their country, in the annual Memorial Day Parade on May 29. Two highly decorated veterans -- Alec Noga and Stan Nadel -- were this year's grand marshals.
People of all ages lined the streets to greet, wave flags, and cheer the veterans, the Fire Department, bands, organizations, and other representatives of community groups who marched down Port Washington Blvd. and Main Street until they reached the Sousa Bandshell. This first parade of the new millennium was a stirring event. The grand marshals led, followed by cars carrying American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars veterans, all exchanging waves with the onlookers. Heartfelt applause was offered to Mrs. William Zwerlein, the Gold Star Mother, as she was driven in a convertible.
All along the parade route, children waving flags, men and women applauding as they watched from beach chairs, and even lively pets on leashes, greeted the Color Guard and sensational Marine Guard bagpipers. VFW Commander (Post 1819) Daniel Blasucci and American League (Post 509) Commander Bob Click followed, as did Commander Stanley Derby of the Marine Corps League. The Jewish War Veterans were also among the marchers. All of the veterans lent dignity and pride to the proceedings.
The Port Washington Police District preceded the great-sounding Schreiber High School Band; they were followed by the St. Francis Hospital volunteers, P.W. Community Chest representatives, Helen Keller National Center marchers, and the PW Chamber of Commerce. Cheering onlookers also greeted Girl Scouts, Guggenheim School marchers, and Daisies, Brownies, and Girl Scouts of St. Peter's. Other schools represented in the parade were Sousa, and the strong-sounding Weber Middle School Band. Marchers represented local religious and fraternal organizations too, including Temple Beth Israel, Community Synagogue Brotherhood, the Elks Lodge, the United Methodist Church, and the very dapper red-jacketed members of the John Michael Marino Lodge - Sons of Italy. Also resplendent were the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, and a swinging band.
The PW Police Athletic League (PAL), PW Youth Activities, the Parent Resource Center, and the Cow Bay Peninsula Historical Society were also happily received by the crowd. The PW Fire Department's grand marshals were Herb Hejbowicz and Joseph Fico; they were applauded for their 50 years of service. Clapping also greeted the Hook and Ladder Co., the terrific Manhattan College Bagpipe Band, PW Protection Engine #1, the Flower Hill Hose Co. No. 1, the Fire Medic Co. No.1, and Fire Chief Geoffrey Cole.
Veterans, families, and community members were welcomed at the Sousa Bandshell by American Legion Post Commander Click, who also served as the chairman of the Memorial Day Committee. He introduced some distinguished guests, including newly-elected Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson, Mrs. Ruth Zwerlein, Police Chief Kilfoil, and Fire Chief Geoffrey Cole. The three police commissioners were also on-stage distinguished guests, as were religious leaders. The Schreiber High School Band provided the musical accompaniment to veteran and Port Jewish Center Cantor Herb Strauss's beautiful soaring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Commander Click remembered community favorite, Uncle George Bergman, a veteran of WWI whose recent passing cannot erase memories of his marching the entire length of the parade. A meaningful invocation by the Rev. Lillian Webb of the Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church reminded the public that "the day is not about shopping or sales in stores" but rather "to say thank you to those who shed their blood for us, and to remember those we do not even know, for without them, we would not be here, and free."
In a poignant moment, Commander Click called attention to one empty chair on stage, the chair for those POWs/MIAs still missing, who cannot be forgotten. His tribute was followed by Past VFW Commander Donald May's reading of General Order #11, exhorting Americans to "cherish the memory of our heroic dead," and calling their graves "hallowed ground." Kevin O'Halpin read Flanders Field as the refurbished memorials nearby sparkled, fitting tributes to those lost. With the firing squad paying homage and memorial wreaths on either side of him, Schreiber trumpeter Brian Jacobs played a most moving rendition of Taps.
After Jane Murphy sang a heartfelt version of America the Beautiful and the flag was raised, Monsignor Walter Simmons gave the benediction, asking for "help to put an end to violence." From those on stage to the crowds on the grassy bandshell, adults, children, even complete strangers, held hands as Chamber of Commerce President Warren Schein led the singing of God Bless America. This was another affecting and meaningful moment in a ceremony filled with them. After the grand marshals' outstanding service records were shared with the crowds, and the ceremony was almost concluded, Commander Click asked everyone to say "thank you" to a veteran. And as people slowly withdrew from the bandshell area, in solemn moods, adults and children did just as the commander suggested.