Brooklyn residents will show off their patriotic pride this Memorial Day weekend, engaging in a variety of parades and memorials meant to pay homage to the men and women who have served the United States by putting themselves into the line of fire.
Parades are scheduled in four neighborhoods – Bay Ridge, Canarsie, Gerritsen Beach and Greenpoint – with a memorial service also scheduled in Plumb Beach to mark the annual commemoration, which originated in the wake of the Civil War.
A half a century later, after World War I, the old Decoration Day morphed into the new Memorial Day, whose purpose was to pay tribute to all those who had given their lives as members of the American armed forces.
Today’s commemorations often honor not only to those armed forces members who died in the line of duty, but to all veterans who bravely committed themselves to the front lines.
On the Sunday before Memorial Day Monday, one parade is held. This is the eighth annual Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade, and, this year, it will take place on May 25th.
Marchers will step off at 9 a.m. from the American Legion Headquarters at 519 Leonard Street, and head up Manhattan Avenue, to St. Alphonsus parish hall on Java Street, where a memorial service will be held. Following the service, parade participants will head back to the American Legion post and hold a service outside.
Approximately 250 people are expected to march in the parade, which is sponsored by the St. Stanislaus Memorial Post 1771 of the American Legion, and the Knights of Columbus Lexington Council 293.
The first of the Greenpoint parades – whose goal is to honor all veterans, living and dead – took place just a few months prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks. It takes on added poignancy, according to organizers, because it strives to pay tribute to World War II veterans, who now are dying at the rate of 1,500 a day, according to the parade committee, as well as veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the more recent Gulf Wars.
The grand marshals of this year’s parades are Maureen and John Murphy, the mother and brother of Lt. Michael Murphy, a member of the U.S. Navy, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, and who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Also participating in the parade are a roster of marching units and color guards from the various branches of the military, including individuals from the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the U.S.S. The Sullivans, which are in town for Fleet Week, as well as the District 14 High School Band, students from area parochial schools, and members of several organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Catholic War Veterans, and various militia and cadet groups. There will also be vintage police cars, the Honeymooners bus, the New York Rangers road tour vehicle and the World Trade Center Memorial Van.
The remainder of the parades will be held the following day, Memorial Day, Monday, May 26th.
In Gerritsen Beach, local residents will gather together for their annual tribute, which is organized by Argonne Post 107, beginning at 10 a.m. on May 28th at Plumb 2nd Street and Whitney Avenue.
The route takes marchers across Gerritsen Avenue, to Burnett Street and Whitney Avenue, where they will stop at the VFW Memorial to lay numerous wreathes and play taps.
From there, marchers head along Gerritsen Avenue to St. James Church, where there is a World War II memorial in the garden that is 60 years old this year. Then, it’s on to the E.J. Matthews Knights of Columbus Hall.
Many local organizations take part. These include the Gerritsen Beach vollies, the Gerritsen Community Marching Band, the Knights of Columbus, the Little League, the Resurrection Softball League, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners, the Cort Club, the St. James Sunday School and Gerritsen Beach Cares.
“Memorial Day was founded to honor the men who served in the American Civil War,” remarked George Broadhead, the county commander of the VFW. “It’s been perpetuated ever since. Today, we honor all the men and women who have served their nation and given their lives for their nation.”
The 141st annual Kings County Memorial Day Parade – the oldest continuously run parade in the country — will take center stage in Bay Ridge, where it has been held for the past 17 years.
The event – which is sponsored by the United War Veterans of Kings County — kicks off at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 26th, from Third Avenue and 87th Street. Marchers make their way along Third Avenue to Marine Avenue, where they head over to Fourth Avenue, marching up to John Paul Jones Park at 101st Street, where there will be a ceremony commemorating those who died in the line of duty. Among the highlights of the ceremony will be a wreath laying, flag raising, the playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute.
This year, the parade’s grand marshal is Salvatore Cassano, who is chief of department for the Fire Department of New York. A 39-year veteran with the FDNY, Cassano served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. The honorary grand marshals are Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and New York State Senator Marty Golden.
Lt. Col. Paul Cook, commander of the U.S. Army New York City Recruiting Battalion is the reviewing officer.
Among the groups participating in the parade are representatives of numerous veterans organizations, plus members of the FDNY, the NYPD, the National Guard, plus many local civic organizations, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Sea Cadets and the Tiger Battalion of the Junior ROTC at Fort Hamilton High School. There will also be many bands, including the NYPD Auxiliary Marching Band and a bevy of high school bands.
The Canarsie Memorial Day Parade, which also will be held on Monday, May 26th, will be preceded by a pair of memorial services. First, at 9 a.m., a memorial service will be held at the Canarsie Memorial Circle at Canarsie Pier. This will be followed by a memorial service at Canarsie Cemetery, Remsen Avenue and Avenue K, at 10 a.m.. Wreathes will be laid at both services.
Line up for the parade begins at 11:00 a.m. at the American Legion Post 573, at Conklin Avenue and East 92nd Street, with the parade kicking off at 11:30 a.m. Marchers will head down Conklin Avenue toward Rockaway Parkway, turning on Rockaway Parkway and proceeding to Avenue M, then continuing along Avenue M to Remsen Avenue.
The marchers will walk along Remsen Avenue to Canarsie Cemetery, where they will observe a moment o silence, then continue along until they reach Conklin Avenue, returning to the American Legion hall, where there will be a memorial service, followed by a collation at 1:15 p.m.
The purpose of the parade, stressed Carlton Richardson, the chairperson of the Canarsie Memorial Day Parade, is to honor, “Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, while simultaneously teaching the next generation of Canarsiens about the value of national pride.”
About 300 or 400 people are expected at the parade, whose marchers include veterans, members of the police auxiliaries, the Explorers, the Girl Scouts, local elected officials, members of area civic organizations, and representatives of the Canarsie History Museum an the Marine Corp recruiting station.