Though a bit smaller than , the Garden City Park Memorial Day Parade is no less important to those who participate or for those in whose honor it is held.
“We are here to pay private and public homage to our military heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom,” VFW Senior Vice-Commander Richard DeMartino said on the steps of the Monday morning. “This is a somber and solemn occasion. The greatest tribute we can pay them is silent, reverent adoration.”
The parade began south on Denton Avenue before turning east onto Jericho Turnpike where it hit Nassau Boulevard and turned north. Marchers then headed west on Fourth Street to the Garden City Park School where a ceremony was held before continuing south on Central Avenue back to Jericho Turnpike to the VFW Hall.
“Hear our prayers for all who have died, whose hearts and hopes are known to You alone. Hear our prayers for those who put the welfare of others ahead of their own and give us hearts as generous as theirs were,” Fr. Joseph Nohs of said in an invocation held at the school. “Help us to shape and make a world where we will lay down the arms of war and turn our swords into plowshares to harvest both justice and peace. We come together to pray and sacrifice ourselves, sacrifice our lives for freedom’s sake. As we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy everyday, we think of how they followed each other.”
Numerous officials from were in attendance, including Supervisor Jon Kaiman, councilman Angelo Ferrara, town clerk Leslie Gross, receiver of taxes Charles Berman, Nassau County and state assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.
“Those of us – and I’m sure it’s all of us – were at one time or another have been to a funeral of a soldier. Take the grief of the family, the friends, the neighbors, the community, the country, the outpouring of love and sadness for each individual and multiply that by thousands... tens of thousands in other wars, hundreds of thousands, millions over the course of the lifetime and history of our country,” Kaiman said. “Remember, we stand together, we love those who died for us, we love our community and we love our country.”
Three volleys for the war dead were fired by a lone rifleman after grand marshall Charles Fitzgerald and president of ladies auxiliary Connie Staffa placed a wreath at the memorial near the school entrance.
“Our fallen heroes are the ones that really made this community, this county, this state, this country,” Ferrara said. “Going forward I know that there are going to be other people who are going to be putting their lives in harm’s way to make sure that our freedoms are kept.”
A reading of all of the deceased members of the VFW from Garden City Park were also read aloud by DeMartino: Henry Dziomba, George Graboski, Charles Janosick, Lewis Lepere, Joseph Seller, Robert Finnegan, Edward Gromatski, Michael Leonard, Howard Mackinnon and Henry Yarsinske.
“You don’t have to be here yet you decided to be here because you understand that the freedoms that we enjoy, the beauty of this country, of this community is only bought with sacrifice and the (cost) is great; war is hell but here we are,” Schimel said.
Nicolello referenced the story of Maj. John O’Grady from New Hyde Park whose plane went down in 1967 in Vietnam and whose daughter vowed to find his resting place and bring him home.
“It’s important for us to remember those sacrifices that our servicemen have made. But it’s also important not just today, but every time we gather at a civic ceremony, whether it’s a graduation, host a little league parade, whether it’s a holiday with friends, just to remember the sacrifices of those who made it possible,” he said.
“As I look around and I see all of the children, I think it’s so important to show them that it is so important to remember to thank those who came before us, who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Gross remarked. “Always remember now and forever to keep them in our hearts, to acknowledge the families of those who lost loved ones, to thank all those who serve today and in the future to keep our great country great.”