As a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, Jack Weinstein took part in Memorial Day services, which honored some of the nation’s last living Civil War veterans.
Those memories certainly resonated for Weinstein, a World War II veteran and United States district court judge, on Monday when he served as grand marshal of the 88th Annual Great Neck Memorial Day Parade.
“In the 20s, I saw Civil War veterans at Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Memorial (Day) parades,” Weinstein said during his grand marshal address as part of a remembrance service at the Village Green. “They were as far removed from the Civil War as we are now from World War II.”
This year’s Great Neck Memorial Day service was dedicated to the peninsula’s veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In addition to its annual parade and remembrance service, Great Neck’s annual Memorial Day events included the dedication of the Great Neck Park District’s new veterans memorial at the Village Green along Middle Neck Road.
“Like many of you, I lost comrades and neighbors to service in the armed forces,” Weinstein said. “This parade today is dedicated to Iraqi War veterans and their families, but there were many other wars and many other dead and injured.”
More than 1,000 marchers took part in this year’s Memorial Day parade, which included 30 organizations from across New York and Canada.
Great Neck Memorial Day Parade Committee Chairman Jim Barton said the turnout was a befitting tribute to honor the service of local military veterans.
“The praise for out troops is well deserved,” said the Navy veteran who served in Vietnam.
Along with members of the Great Neck American Legions Post No. 160 and the Great Neck Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 372, volunteers from the Vigilant and Alert fire departments took part in the parade.
Midshipmen from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in the Village of Kings Point also marched in the parade with representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard.
And for the second straight year, Canadian veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 50 and the Canadian-based Kitchner/Waterloo Fire Fighters Association and Honor Guard made what Barton said was a nine-hour trek to take part in the peninsula’s Memorial Day services.
“I thought it was very moving and I thought the presentations were magnificent and a great tribute to our service people,” Great Neck resident Leon Korobow said of the peninsula’s annual Memorial Day festivities.
In addition to local service men and women, the Great Neck South High School Marching Band participated in Monday’s parade with between 150 to 200 students from the Great Neck Combined Elementary School Band.
“We’ve been in Great Neck for many, many years,” said Marsha Anderson, who joined in the Memorial Day celebrations with family members. “Sometimes we’re in the area for the celebration, sometimes not, but we try and get out here. A lot of people come here every year.”
“It was wonderful being here,” she added. “A lot of people turned out.”
Great Neck’s Association of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts Troop No. 10 and Cub Scout Troop No. 178 were part of the parade, while the Great Neck Alert Fire Department’s junior firefighters carried a flag in the parade donated by World War II veteran Murray Seeman and his wife Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman.
The flag, which has 48 stars, was previously flown over the United States Military Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia, where 2,841 American military personnel are buried, Seeman said.
“The director of this cemetery presented this flag to my husband, World War veteran Murray Seeman, as he participated in the invasion of Morocco,” Lee Seeman said.
That the flag was incorporated into Great Neck’s Memorial Day service, was a significant honor for the Seeman family, the councilwoman said.
“There is no greater love than a soldier who fights in foreign lands in defense of the ideals of America,” Seeman said. “There is no greater love.”
Murray Seeman said the “American spirit” is also worthy of praise on Memorial Day.
“It’s true the soldiers did their part and we celebrate them and thank them,” he said, “but I feel also that we owe a word of praise and of thanks to the spirit of the American people who have supported all the military forces in that great war.”
During Monday’s remembrance service, Great Neck South High School student Karen Notovitz sang “O Canada” and “God Bless America.”
The Merchant Marine Academy band also played the U.S. national anthem and later “Taps” before the Kings Point service academy’s firing team participated in a 21-gun salute to America’s veterans.
“There are certain members of our society who have chosen to serve, rather than be served, at its least a noble calling, at its best a request from God to do good for fellow men,” former Alert Fire Company President Peter Meade said during the remembrance service.
The remembrance service was concluded with the dedication and laying of wreaths at Great Neck’s newly renovated veterans memorial.
Great Neck Park District Commissioner Robert Lincoln Jr. said the memorial contains the name of Great Neck’s veterans who died in every U.S. war.
“Each is individually important,” Lincoln said. “Each is a member of our community, had a story to tell, had a family, had strengths, had weaknesses, had friends, maybe even a few enemies, but who were very special people from our community who we had made sure will never be forgotten.”
“We all pray,” he added, “that we never have to add another name in that area.”