By Kimberly Dijkstra and Colleen Maidhof
When we think of Memorial Day, we think of family barbecues, street fairs and heading down to the beach for the unofficial first day of summer. It’s easy to forget the true meaning of the holiday amid all of the festivities. But there are events going on all over Long Island this Memorial Day weekend that honor those who have served our country. Memorial Day has a special meaning to veterans. They have been to war and come home wondering why they survived and their buddies didn’t.
“We often think of how close we came to not coming home,” said Commander Bob Fullam of VFW Post 516 in Farmingdale and a Korean war veteran. “Then we realize how fortunate we are.”
“We think of the…veterans who fought in the wars before ours and how they sacrificed their limbs and lives to protect the freedoms our great nation provides for all our citizens,” Commander Fullam continued. “We also think of how we can give back to our community.”
After giving so much, veterans continue to give more. At 10 a.m., the Farmingdale Memorial Day Parade will travel south on Main Street to the Village Green where the VFW will hold their services for Memorial Day Remembrance, an event to honor those who gave their lives in service.
Afterwards, VFW Post 516 will dedicate a new monument recognizing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. “All are invited back to our post for refreshments after the services,” said Commander Fullam.
“We honor all veterans today and every day for their courage, sacrifices and dedication to fight for our freedom,” said Farmingdale Village Mayor Ralph Ekstrand. “Thank you to the Farmingdale Fire Department, VFW and all others that helped plan this community event,” he added. “We look forward to seeing everyone on Monday.”
The previous day, Long Island National Cemetery (LINC), 2040 Wellwood Ave, Farmingdale, will hold its Memorial Day services on at 1 p.m. This event is open to the public.
Placing flags at the gravesites of veterans is another way communities honor fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. Local scouting units arrive early to LINC and Calverton Cemetery, 210 Princeton Blvd., Calverton, to place flags at each grave to recognize and honor military men and women. They return the following week to remove the flags and place them in storage for next year.
On Friday, May 22, at 8:45 a.m., United States Air Force Thunderbirds will be at Farmingdale State College’s (FSC) Campus Center for an early celebration of Memorial Day. Graduates of FSC’s aviation program will participate. The pilots will also show a film featuring past flight performances and take questions from the audience.
“Memorial Day combines honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans with the beauty and thrill of a world class air show,” said Aviation Professor Michael Canders. “We are honored that the Thunderbirds chose to begin their visit to Long Island with Farmingdale State College—and our aviation students are going to be hanging on every word.”
There is no admission charge, but seating is limited. Make a reservation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bethpage Federal Credit Union Air Show takes place at Jones Beach, from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24. The annual show features aerial demonstrations from all four branches of the service, both past and present, along with an impressive array of civilian acts, parachute teams and static displays. The Thunderbirds will fly their F16-d jets. Hundreds of thousands of people will gather this weekend for the extraordinary presentation.
In a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, lobbying for the return of the Thunderbirds to Jones Beach, Senator Charles Schumer said, “Events such as this, with the history, support and attendance volume of Jones Beach, help connect the general public with the servicemen and women of whom they are so proud and provide a great kickoff to the summer season.”
Former Town of Oyster Bay councilman Leonard Symons has chaired the Plainview-Old Bethpage (POB) Memorial Day Parade for many years. What makes this parade unique are the speeches POB Middle School students give honoring the Grand Marshall, who this year is Jack Stein.
“We try to make the children aware of the accomplishments and the fact that veterans, some of them, have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Symons said. “By linking the generations, by getting children involved, it’s a way to remember and acknowledge the contribution of the veterans.”
On Saturday, May 23, from 6 to 10 p.m., at North Hempstead Beach Park, West Shore Road, Port Washington, the Town of North Hempstead will host its annual Memorial Day Commemoration to honor our nation’s fallen troops. The tribute ceremony will be followed by live music by Skyline Orchestra and Tusk, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. Fireworks begin after sundown at approximately 9:15 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $10.
“The Memorial Day Fireworks Ceremony is always a wonderful kickoff to the summer season,” said supervisor Judi Bosworth. “It is a terrific opportunity for our community to celebrate the start of the summer, while paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting
for our freedom.”
For a listing of Memorial Day parades by town, click here. For a list of museums to visit Memorial Day weekend, click here.