Two days before the nation paused for Memorial Day to remember its fallen soldiers, more than 200 people in New Hyde Park paid tribute by marching with the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War Posts.
“On a personal level, I think about the friends of mine that died during the Korean War,” said Mario Obertis, commander of VFW Post 8031 in New Hyde Park. “I lost a number of them during the Korean War, and I think of them all the time.”
When the parade, which began at Lakeville Road and Jericho Turnpike, made it to Village Hall, the procession stopped to lay wreaths in honor of fallen soldiers. Obertis gave the order for the honor guard to fire their rifles in tribute.
“We commemorate the people that gave their lives for our freedom, and it goes back through all the wars we’ve fought in,” Obertis said. “These people died for our freedom, and they should be recognized for it, and that’s why we celebrate Memorial Day.”
From Village Hall, the procession moved to Memorial Park. In addition to the VFW and American Legion, local elected officials, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Manor Oaks and New Hyde Park Memorial bands, the Knights of Columbus and the fire department also participated in the parade, Obertis said.
“I think it’s significant to have the school children march in the parade so they can understand our history,” Obertis said. “I think they get a taste of it when they march in the parade.”
Obertis, who served in Germany as a member of the Air Force during the Korean War, said on Memorial Day he remembers a boyhood friend who was killed at age 19 while serving in the Marine Corps.
“After I heard he was killed, I decided to enlist in the Air Force, but I always think of him because we grew up together,” Obertis said. “That’s what [Memorial Day] means to me. I think of their sacrifice and how it all contributes to our freedom.”
Among the elected officials in attendance were Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello and state Assemblyman Edward Ra.
“It’s good to see people at the parade because they’re honoring the meaning of Memorial Day,” Obertis said. “So many people in this country use it as a day off…but they should remember the meaning of Memorial Day.”
On Monday, VFW Post 5253 in Albertson began its ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday, with appearances by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Bosworth, state Sen. Jack Martins, state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and Town of North Hempstead Councilman Peter Zuckerman.
With the Post’s flags at half mast, Gaetano Rumore, a Vietnam veteran and commander of the Albertson Post 5253, paid tribute to the fallen soldiers and spoke to Memorial Day’s meaning.
“We are here to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” Rumore said. “The fallen comrades, men and women, we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared the same qualities: courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity — all qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.”
VFW 5253’s parade featured the Herricks marching band, the Albertson fire department riding in their trucks and the members of VFW Post 5253, among others.
“Your presence here today is a tribute to our lost troops and their families and shows that we appreciate their sacrifice,” Rumore said. “From the shivering soldiers at Valley Forge, to the doughboys in the muddy trenches of France, the fighters of Korea to the platoon patrolling the jungles of Vietnam, Gulf War warriors and to the troops patrolling the deserts and mountains of Irag, Afghanistan, we remember and honor all of these brave men.”