NHP Memorial Day Parade honors fallen veterans

NHP Memorial Day Parade honors fallen veterans
The Lindenhurst Brass Band performs in the Village of New Hyde Park Memorial Day Parade. (Courtesy of Taylor Herzlich)

Veterans, business owners, residents and village and town officials gathered Saturday in the Village of New Hyde Park to honor fallen veterans with a parade and ceremonies at Village Hall and Memorial Park.

“It’s the most important, most solemn event that we have in the Village of New Hyde Park,” Mayor Christopher Devane said.

Young children waved as parade participants marched down Jericho Turnpike, including Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient Joe Philips and his young son, veterans, the mayor and village trustees and members of New Hyde Park-Garden City Park District Marching Band, Scout Troop 298, Pack 544, New Hyde Park Little League, Cellini Lodge, Knights of Columbus, the Chamber of Commerce, the Fire Department and the Police Department.

Village and government officials, including Mayor Christopher Devane, the village trustees, Senator Jack Martins, Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Legislator Scott Strauss, Councilwoman Christine Liu and Councilman Dennis Walsh, marched in the parade. Some gave speeches during the Memorial Park ceremony.

“Memorial Day is our attempt to honor those who gave their lives for our country and we do the best we can,” DeSena said. “We must uphold the values that they gave their lives for. We must protect our democracy and I see that in our fire service, our first responders, our scouts, the leaders of the scouts who are teaching them about duty to country and duty to God, and I want to thank you.”

One scout in particular, Michael Domingo, has made it his mission to honor fallen veterans.

More than a year ago, Domingo began working with the American Legion to gather data on fallen New Hyde Park veterans.

And months ago, he embarked on his Eagle Scout project – a wall in Memorial Park to honor the village’s 57 fallen veterans.

“We’re here today to honor those who…at the precious age of 19, 20 and 21 and even 22 simply never came home,” Devane said. “So, as we go about our business this weekend and have our barbecues…and we gather our family around…I ask those of you who are parents, what hopes you would have for your children at that age. About getting into a good college. Meeting that special someone. Getting a good job. Finding a great place to live.”

The wall will feature an individual plaque for each fallen veteran as well as one large plaque in the center of the wall to honor all veterans. The customized plaques did not arrive in time for Memorial Day, so a future unveiling ceremony will be held, the mayor said at a prior village meeting.

The ambitious project is completely funded by donations, the mayor said, from monetary gifts to business owners lending their time and expertise.

“I just want to also thank all of the community members that have helped complete this project by giving various donations and other support,” Domingo said, “to be able to produce this magnificent memorial as a testament to the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives.”

Trustee Rainer Burger, a United States Air Force veteran and troop leader, spoke highly of the teenage scout – who happens to be his nephew.

“I truly am humbled by what he has done for my service and my brothers and sisters,” Burger said.

During the lengthy Memorial Park ceremony, kids and parents alike stood in the scorching heat, fanning their faces and turning to firecracker ice pops for relief. Domingo tied this small sacrifice to the meaning of Memorial Day.

“I’d like to say, thank you all again for your time here coming out, because these men and women who gave their lives for this country, they gave more than just their time. They gave their lives,” Domingo said. “They gave their service, so by being patient, listening to all these stories, we can give a little bit for those who gave a lot.”

At Village Hall and Memorial Park, veterans laid wreaths, fired blanks and played the bugle.

A festive performance by the Lindenhurst Brass Band led parade marchers along the route, where families and friends turned out in groups.

Two young sisters in matching dresses and bucket hats played with red, white and blue wind spinners while marchers passed by. Some young boys joined the parade route on their scooters, red streamers tied to the handles. Other young children clung to their parents’ and grandparents’ legs.

“It’s an honor to serve these people that fought for our country,” Margie Cummings said.

The New Hyde Park resident said she was honoring one special veteran in particular: her husband, Dennis, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Now, he is enjoying retirement with his wife and participating in the Lions and Elks Clubs, Margie said.

Employees from local businesses showed up, too.

“We’ve been here for years, but we’re trying to be a part of the community more,” said Anissia Rodriguez from Saf-T-Swim of New Hyde Park.

The community came together in more ways than one. Throughout the Memorial Park ceremony, the speaker system checked in and out. Microphones failed during speeches.

And at the end of the ceremony, the speaker system cut out while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played – so New Hyde Park residents joined in song to finish the anthem.

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