Memorial Day: Paying “Homage to Our Fallen Heroes”

Written By: Peggy Godfrey

In the June 9 issue of the Westchester Guardian

Proudly, the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association of the City of New Rochelle sponsored the Memorial Day ceremonies honoring our fallen war heroes. Peter Parente, their President and Parade Coordinator, gave particular credit to all the day’s sponsors, especially Monroe College. Their Chaplin, William F. Moye, introduced as a 96 year old veteran, asked God to bless all who gave their lives to answer “the nation’s call” in the spirit of true comradeship. He asked everyone to pray for those still missing in action and being held as prisoners of war.
After the New Rochelle High School band played the National Anthem, Parente welcomed everyone by saying he “loved to see all the people” present. Yesterday at the Beechwood and Holy Sepulchre Cemetery Ceremonies, all the flags on the veterans’ graves were replaced, 1800 in all. The crowd there was the “largest in 35 years.” The list of veteran organizations supporting programs on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and also September ll, were enumerated. These three events give the “public an opportunity to show appreciation for what the military does for us, according to Parente. “Before we have peace, these men and women who serve have their lives on the line.” The list of New Rochelle dignitaries attending included all Council members and Mayor, County Legislators Sheila Marcotte and James Maisano, and County Clerk Tim Idoni. When Mayor Noam Bramson addressed the group he mentioned this year’s special recognition of Vietnam veterans. This war although it “divided Americans,” should not result in any shame when debated. These veterans were “denied the full honor they deserved.” He urged when Vietnam is mentioned, these veterans should “hold their heads up high.”:
Brigadier General and Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith emphasized that more than one million Americans have “died in battle for our country.” then added, many more “died from battle scars.” In the Vietnam War, more than 58,000 lost their lives. “Freedom is not free,” he continued, and is paid for with these lives. The Bible tells us, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for others. While this has become a day to open swimming pools,or to go to store sales and picnics and barbecues, this weekend should never lose its importance, ” to remember our fallen brothers and sisters.” Recalling Osama Bin Laden, he called 9/11 the “new day of infamy,” after Pearl Harbor. On 9/11 people were going to work, “It was an attack on all humanity.” Our founding fathers pledged their lives, so let us say, “We are a grateful nation.”
Explaining the meaning of Memorial Day, Ron Tocci, who formerly served in the 82nd Airborne during the Vietnam War, and as a New York State Assemblyman and New York State Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, traced the origins of Memorial Day to the Civil War. On this day of remembrance, he asked everyone to think of families deprived of their loved ones and how our country was founded on their life and blood. He felt we “don’t do enough for our veterans and those in need,” then acknowledged that we now have the first all-volunteer army since the Civil War. The Commander of the American Legion, Post 8, Tom O’Keefe, then reminded everyone how the history of this remembrance dates back to the Civil War. After a wreath was placed on the grave honoring veterans in Memorial Plaza, a moment of silence for the honored dead was followed by a gun salute by the American Legion Post 8 firing detail and Taps played by Max Gordon from the New Rochelle High School Band.
Among those cheering the festivities was Christina Fimana of the Marcos Fimana store at 503 Main Street. She said she likes the ceremony and parade and every year her and her husband attend the festivities. Eileen Kuhn said her first two children were in the Marines and they recruited another, their sister Frances. She said she told them they weren’t going to recruit all ten of her children. She always says, “Stand up for your country.” A New Rochelle Fire Fighter, John DiPippo, felt it was “great New Rochelle was doing something for its residents,” and commented about how many had shown up for the ceremonies. Brian O’Leary summed it all up, he “came to see it and pay homage to our fallen heroes.” He also hoped the good weather would hold out. Luckily it did.