Sitting alone on a brick wall sheltered by shade, World War II Veteran Tom Zarella was dabbing the sweat off his brow after walking several blocks to drop his wife off at the for the New Hyde Park Village Memorial Day parade on Saturday morning. Despite the humidity, 85 year-old Zarella marched in the parade to remind us all of the sacrifices his generation made for the country.
Zarella served in the Air Force from 1944 to 1946 in the Pacific leg of World War II. After the war, he returned home to Cambria Heights, Queens and moved to Garden City Park in 1974. The veteran says he is one of few WWII veterans left in the area, as many have passed away.
Marching alongside Zarella was 80 year-old Gino Del Signore, a Korean War veteran and New Hyde Park resident for 50 years. Del Signore served from April 1952 to April 1953 as an auto mechanic in the Marines.
While most of the residents who came to the parade sought refuge from the heat in the shade, Del Signore is thankful the weather here does not reach the sweltering heat in Korea.
“In the summer the temperature gets over 100 degrees and its 40 below in the winter," Del Signore said. "Don’t even get me started on those rains in the spring; it rained for months."
Zarella and Del Signore marched with the American Legion, which boasts 167 members in the area. Not all the veterans can make the parade, but the ones that are there carry on the spirit of their comrades.
In the ceremony after the parade at New Hyde Park Memorial Park, Mayor Daniel Petruccio reminded New Hyde Park residents to treat Memorial Day as a day of remembrance and solidarity; not only a holiday to celebrate the start of the summer season.
New Hyde Park resident Tony Chiofolo understood this sentiment as he stood among the veterans in honor of his father, Vincent Chiofolo, a WWII veteran.
“Memorial Day is important so the younger generation doesn’t forget the sacrifices of the older generation,” Chiofolo said.
The parade was not only to honor those who have come before, but unite generations of what the country believes are true heroes. A Vietnam veteran himself, Vinny Papa joined his family to watch his two sons marching in the parade; his son Joey with the , and his son Vinny with the police department. Vinny Sr.’s Memorial Day aids as a reminder of his own service but also a way to appreciate the service of the younger generations.
In his invocation, Pastor Dan Olson of the summed up what makes our veterans so special, “they loved freedom more than their own lives.”