D-Day veteran Thomas Scardino said the brief address he gave at the Memorial Day observance in Mineola Memorial Park on Monday took shape in his mind the week before when he was selling poppies at King Kullen.
Scardino, who is commander of Pvt. Adolf Block VFW Post 1305, said he overheard shoppers talking about their plans for barbecues and shopping at the mall and was concerned that the meaning of Memorial Day was being lost.
“Sometimes in this country we take freedom for granted. This freedom was paid for by the lives of others,” Scardino told a small audience of residents gathered for the Memorial Day ceremonies. “By honoring them on this day, we preserve their memories for future generations.”
Carl Marchese, the commander of American Legion Post 349, began the event by saying the day was not for the living.
“Scripture tells us there is no greater love than that of those who would lay down their lives for their fellow man,” Marchese said later. “Nobody can replace these fallen heroes.”
Marchese recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln, who encouraged his fellow citizens “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.”
Marchese introduced two veterans of the current Afghanistan conflict, U.S. Marine Daniel Cribbin and Owen Riell, who served in the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division.
Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss recalled the words of an old soldier’s lament: “Lay me down in the cold, cold ground, Where before me many men have gone,” and invited all those present to meditate briefly on a day “when we are remembering the sacrifices of our veterans.”
“Close your eyes and remember. May God bless the United States of America. God bless our veterans,” Strauss said.
Les Siegel, chaplain of the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps, offered the invocation at the ceremonies, saying, “Thank you for the blood that has been shed and the protection you have given us.”
Village of Mineola trustees Paul Cusato, Paul Pereira, Dennis Walsh, and George Durham were in the line of march for the parade preceding the ceremonies. State Assemblyman Ed Ra and state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel were also present along with Nassau County legislators Richard Nicolello and Wayne Wink, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Town Council members Angelo Ferrara and Dina De Giorgio.
State Sen. Jack Martins led those present in the pledge of allegiance and Marchese led the singing of “God Bless America” near the conclusion of the ceremonies.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps and a three-volley salute by World War II veteran and VFW member Gerry Olsen, Catholic War Veterans Post member Vinnie DeStefano and retired U.S. Army Capt. and American Legion member Yuri Karasz.
Olsen recalled the time the destroyer escort he served on in the south Pacific narrowly missed being struck by two torpedoes from a dive bomber.
Reill said he was remembering his best friend, Specialist Anthony Lightfoot, who died in Afghanistan four years ago.
D-Day veteran Raymond Vaz said he remembers seeing the survivors of the Buchenwald death camp his U.S. Army unit liberated in World War II.
“I try to forget because I start to cry,” he said.
The emotion was evident in Scardino’s voice as he said, “I’m thinking of the guys who didn’t make the top of the top of the hill. They play taps. It hurts.”