Brooklynites commemorated the Americans who have died serving their country — and honored those who have returned — at Memorial Day events across the borough on Monday, marking the occasion with traditions old and new.
In Bay Ridge, heroes marched down Fourth Avenue for the 149th year of the Kings County Memorial Day Parade. While Downtown, vets and their loved ones gathered for a service at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza.
That event is only in its second year, but attendees say congregating at the massive structure — which is inscribed with the names of the more than 11,500 Brooklynites who fell in World War II — is fast becoming a cherished ritual.
“The memorial is such a beautiful, gigantic one,” said 95-year-old Bensonhurster Max Nemerovsky, who served in the Air Force from 1942 to 1945, including a seven-month stint in Italy. “It remembers all the Brooklynites who proportionality gave quite a bit to the freedom of the United States in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. It was spectacular.”
The event included a wreath-laying ceremony, an Air Force drill team demonstration, and performances from the Navy Ceremonial Band and singing group the American Bombshells — a self-described “modern-day twist on the Andrews Sisters” who had Nemerovsky up and boogying to “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Attendees also got a rare peak inside the memorial’s interior hall, which has been closed since 1986. Park volunteer group the Cadman Park Conservancy is currently raising funds to reopen the shrine for good and make it wheelchair accessible, and local patriots say they can’t wait.
“We’re so happy they opened the doors,” said Crown Heights resident Bonita Blakely, whose husband, 96-year-old Rev. James Blakely, is a Pearl Harbor survivor and sometimes gets around via wheelchair. “We’re looking forward to the upgrade.”
Nemerovsky says the event wasn’t always easy — it is painful remembering friends who have died — but it was an honor to attend, and he hopes to make it back to see the monument again next year.
“If I’m alive, I’ll come again,” he said. “It’s quite an honor for Brooklyn — everywhere in the country we have memorials, but this one is especially for Brooklyn.”