2008-05-28 / Features

Little Neck-Douglaston Holds Largest Memorial Day Parade

BY DAVID GORDON

Photos David Gordon Soldiers and sailors marched in the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade. Photos David Gordon Soldiers and sailors marched in the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade. "What a great day for a parade," one spectator said prior to the start of the annual Little Neck- Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation. Thousands of spectators lined the streets from the corner of Jayson Avenue to the St. Anastasia Schoolyard and down Northern Boulevard.

The day of remembrance began at 10 a.m. in the Community Church of Little Neck for the interfaith prayer service, followed by a wreath laying and flag raising at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Alameda Avenue in St. Anastasia's Schoolyard. Following welcoming remarks from Grand Marshal Major General William Terpeluk of the U.S. Army Reserves, the Mater Dei H.S. Marching Band, hailing all the way from Breese, Illinois, performed the National Anthem.

The parade, divided into four divisions, began at 2 p.m. Members of the Army, Marines, and Navy marched early on. Following them were every organization and everyone from the Nassau- Suffolk Horsemen's Association to Mr. Met to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. A few paces behind them was United States Senator Charles Schumer, who stopped every few moments to take pictures with eager members of the crowd.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn celebrated Memorial Day by joining in the Little Neck-Douglaston Parade. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn celebrated Memorial Day by joining in the Little Neck-Douglaston Parade. Among the groups who performed later on in the parade were the JROTC, marching band and majorettes from Francis Lewis H.S. in Fresh Meadows and the Mater Dei Marching Band. Girl and Boy Scout troops from all over Queens County also marched, as well as members of the Little Neck-Douglaston division of the American Legion (Post #103.) Members were also seen walking up and down the parade route selling poppies, supporting the funding for the hospitalized veterans programs.

"Too many people forget about the boys and girls overseas, especially in Afghanistan," said Michael Proto, past Grand Knight of the St. Anastasia Knights of Columbus Council #5911.

This was echoed during the flag raising by Terpeluk. Parade Judge David Gratt, a member of the 99th Bomb Group during World War II, relayed his own story of survival. "You're only supposed to do 24 missions," Gratt said. It was on his 25th, while filling in for someone, that his plane was shot down. He was held as a prisoner of war for 18 months.

A collation was served throughout the day in St. Anastasia's Schoolyard. Just as in previous years, White Castle provided complimentary hamburgers. Other sponsors who had banners up were Petrocelli Contracting and Giardino's Restaurant.

"You couldn't have asked for a better weekend," said a spectator, who stood under the shade of the awning of La Baraka, a local French restaurant. Next to him, two children sucked on red, white, and blue popsicles. Schumer summed up the day's events. "Let's hear it for the soldiers! Let's hear it for Little Neck!" he shouted as he marched, proudly carrying an American flag.

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, after being officially established on May 5 by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1873, New York became the first state to recognize it as an official holiday. By 1890, all states that had constituted the northern side in the American Civil War recognized it as a holiday. The South refused to acknowledge it until after World War I. Currently, several Southern states honor the dead soldiers of the Confederacy on separate days.

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