New Hyde Park reflects on Memorial Day’s meaning

The Island Now
John McGuire, post commander of American Legion Post 1089 of New Hyde Park, salutes the wreath set in front of the war memorial outside of New Hyde Park Village Hall on Saturday during a moment of silence while "Taps" is played. (Photo by David Pollard)

By David Pollard

For several minutes there was complete silence outside New Hyde Park Village Hall Saturday morning.

Once the village’s annual Memorial Day parade arrived there, the music from the marching bands stopped, people stood at attention, saluted or had their hand over their heart as “Taps” was played.

A wreath was set outside next to the village’s War Memorial by John McGuire, post commander of American Legion Post 1089, which is based in New Hyde Park.

McGuire said that despite the exuberance of the event, taking time out to remember the sacrifices made by men and women during wartime was most important.

“It’s a day of remembrance, not a day of celebration,” he said prior to the parade.

Larry Montrueil, the mayor of New Hyde Park, shared similar views about the day’s festivities. He remembers the Memorial Day parade being a part of the village each year for as long as he can remember.

“It’s one of the most important days in New Hyde Park when we honor our war dead,” he said.

Margaret Zarella, 83, said she has been attending the parade for as long as she can remember to support her husband, who has marched in the parade as a member of the American Legion.

“He’s been carrying the flag for 20 years,” she said.

She said also enjoys the youth who turn out.

“I love the little ones,” she said. “I get a big kick out of them.”

Elysse Kreiss, 30, of New Hyde Park, brought her two children, Donovan, 5, and Mia, 1, along with her mother, Sue, to the parade. This was Kreiss’ first time attending.

She said her son wanted to come primarily to see the fire trucks that were in the parade.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “My son never saw a parade before and wanted to come and he was so excited.”

The village has 56 memorialized war-dead from New Hyde Park involved in military conflicts from World War I to Vietnam War.

A gun salute was also a part of the memorial ceremony at Village Hall, but the parade did not end there.

The music began playing and the marching continued to the village’s Memorial Park on Lincoln Avenue, where remarks were made about the meaning of Memorial Day and prayers were said along with the reading of the names of the village’s 15 soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.

Bob Wojtusiak, 73, is a Vietnam veteran and wore a baseball cap displaying that fact during the parade. He said the ceremony at Village Hall was what the day is really about.

“It’s nice to give respects to the fallen,” he said. “We have a lot to be thankful for.”

He said those who died in war made the ultimate sacrifice to help make it that way.

“We couldn’t have been born at a better time as a whole. Everybody has something,” he said.

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