New Hyde Park honors local veterans during Memorial Day ceremony

New Hyde Park honors local veterans during Memorial Day ceremony
Veteran Rick Wright salutes the flags as they are raised on the lawn of village hall during New Hyde Park's Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane shared the story of a lieutenant in the Air Force during World War II, the son of Irish immigrants who made the ultimate sacrifice, at New Hyde Park’s Memorial Day celebration Saturday morning.

This lieutenant was just 24 years old when he signed up to go fight for his country in the wake of the attack upon Pearl Harbor.

In 1943, he was training to go to war in Europe and during a training exercise his plane went down. Devan said he was killed instantly and his family was devastated, including his two other brothers who were also in the war and never had the chance to say goodbye.

“When you are killed in a war or killed as a soldier, two lives are lost,” Devane said. “One is your physical body life, that’s lost instantly. But there’s another life that is lost: a life that you never get to live.”

The lieutenant who Devane spoke about was his Uncle Thomas, who Devane never had a chance to meet and call him his uncle.

“But I tend to think that my Uncle Tommy gave his life for a nephew he never met,” Devane said.

He said this is what sacrifice is and the reason for Memorial Day.

With the sun shining down upon them, hundreds of people marched in New Hyde Park Saturday morning to honor and remember the veterans who gave their lives for their country.

Residents gathered along the parade route to watch the swaths of people march down  Jericho Turnpike, representing various military, first responder and local organizations.

Boy Scout Troop 298 marched in the parade to support their local veterans, which Scout Master CJ Manoni said conveys the three principles of the Boy Scouts: citizenship, physical fitness and good character. He said the parade is a great lesson for the young boys and a way for them to honor Boy Scout members who are also veterans.

The parade, featuring motorcycles, firetrucks and a marching band, made a pitstop at village hall for a special ceremony along the parade route.

Four flags were carried and raised on the village lawn, three gunshots were fired and a single wreath was laid on the rock that displays the names of the 105 residents who have died in wars.

“When we were at village hall and we heard those gunshots, those salutes, that is a reminder of the terrible days that our military faced,” North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said. “Young people went out there on scary days, frightening to hear gunfire, and it is because of them that we are here.”

The parade continued to the village’s Memorial Park, which featured two tombstones in honor of individuals killed in war, to conclude ceremony.

Various elected officials marched in the parade and spoke at the ceremony, including Devane.

“We’re not celebrating, we’re honoring,” Devane said. “Honoring those patriots, those heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice in honor of our country.”

Veteran Charles Fink shared his story, reflecting back 54 years almost to the exact day and time of his Vietnam war experience as he addressed the crowd.

Fink, who is now a reverend monsignor at the Notre Dame Parish in New Hyde Park, said he was wearing a different uniform at that time than the clerical one he had on during the ceremony.

“I was lying on the ground in the jungle in Vietnam bleeding,” Fink said. “My squad leader was lying dead in front of me, having taken my place as frontman 100 meters before we walked into an ambush.”

That day Fink said a dozen from his squad were wounded and two of his buddies died.

“They’re among the hundreds of thousands who since our country’s founding have given their lives so that others could enjoy freedom and opportunity and prosperity of this great nation,” Fink said.

The monsignor closed with a prayer.

“Give us the grace and the will to live lives worthy of the sacrifices that have been made for us,” Fink said. “Bless our nation, bless all our children, and grant the brave men and women who we honor today eternal rest and peace. You will reign forever and ever.”

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