Memorial Day traditions return to Long Island after COVID-19 cancellations
On Remembrance Day, residents of Long Island marched through hamlet town centers to honor the American war dead. They craned their necks at the Bethpage air show at Jones Beach. At backyard barbecues they celebrated the start of summer; during solemn ceremonies, they read the names of the dead.
At least one of these ceremonies made history Monday, when the name of Albert Freeman, a Black Union soldier who died during the Civil War, was first read at the ceremony at Bartlett Pond Park of Middle Island in commemoration of members of the Longwood community who died fighting the American Wars. .
Freeman’s name was lost in history until Carlie Preudhomme, an eighth-grade student at Longwood Junior High School, began his research a year ago. Freeman, born free on Middle Island in 1840, volunteered for war in 1863 and died of dysentery a year later.
He was the first black service member whose name was added to a memorial honoring 46 other area residents who served during the Civil War.
“Freeman served honestly and faithfully with his company,” Carlie said at Monday’s ceremony. “We weren’t able to take Albert Freeman’s body home, but we have officially brought his name home.”
Freeman was only paid $ 62.79 for his service, but now the community will know his name and carry his legacy, said Middle Island Civic Association president Gail Lynch-Bailey. County officials presented Carlie with a proclamation honoring his research.
“Every time you find a story like Albert Freeman’s, it’s a thread that goes into the fabric of America and paints the full picture of who we are as a nation,” Legis said. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), Speaker of the Suffolk County Legislature. “I’m going to encourage you to keep doing this, to keep digging into history. Keep telling these important stories.”
Among the Memorial Day traditions to return after a year of changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: the annual commemoration of the village of Freeport. There, hundreds of firefighters and other first responders marched down flag-lined West Merrick Road past a war memorial flanked by red, white and blue wreaths.
“It’s important to remember how many people died in the prime of their lives,” said Albert Klipfel, 95, who fought in the Battle of Tinian in the Pacific in World War II. “I’ll never forget.”
Klipfel, a Freeport resident who also fought in the Korean War, said he feared some people would take the sacrifices for granted.
“You don’t think it’s going to change your life, but you’re never the same,” he said, noting that veterans who escape severe physical injuries also fight psychological trauma.
Beside him, 73-year-old Air Force veteran Steven Latus said Memorial Day was a time for people to reflect on the importance of military service in our daily lives.
“I think society as a whole feels disconnected from military service because there is no project,” he said. “In the past, there was a stronger relationship.”
At Calverton National Cemetery, a flood of visitors stopped in front of the graves of Lt. Michael Murphy – a Navy SEAL who died in Afghanistan in 2005 – and those of Tech Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs of Port Jefferson Station, Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso of Commack and Captain Andreas B. O’Keeffe of the Moriches Center, members of the 106th New York Air National Guard Rescue Wing who were killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2018.
Vincent Palifka of Rocky Point brought his family to the graves.
“We owe them everything,” he said of the dead.
At Long Island National Cemetery, Richard Garcia, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force, scoured white headstones in search of the grave of his wife’s cousin, Miguel Angel Vale, who was killed in 1966 by a drunk driver during his basic training.
“As Americans, as veterans, it’s right that we come here,” said Garcia, who lives in Massapequa. “I feel that it is my responsibility, my duty to come and pay homage to all these people.”
Maritza Sellas from Levittown and Army veteran Bob Gerard from Hicksville came to visit the grave of Gerard’s childhood friend Micky James Johns, who was killed in Vietnam in 1966 at the age of 19.
“I come every year just to say hello,” Gérard said. “I don’t want him to think we forgot him.”
Nancy Zak from Levittown came to the cemetery to visit the grave of her grandfather, Albert Osberg, a veteran who died in 1943 when her father was just a youngster.
“I’ve never known him, but I want to know more about him,” she said.
In Smithtown, elected officials joined members of the American Legion and veterans of foreign wars for a ceremony outside City Hall. Military service members “take the risk of not coming back,” Legis said. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset). “They are doing it for our nation and they are doing it for each one individually … Today we thank those who gave their lives for us and our nation.”
Also on Monday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law allowing veterans to receive state benefits after a diagnosis, from anyone licensed to provide health care services in New York State, with post-traumatic stress, head trauma or disclosure. military sexual trauma.
Previously, veterans had to be diagnosed by a provider from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Facilitating the diagnosis of veterans so that they can receive state benefits is crucial to ensuring that they are able to undergo any mental health treatment that they may need once they have taken it. their retirement, “the governor said in a statement from his office.
Attendance at most of Long Island’s parks and beaches was low due to the overcast and cool weather Monday morning, said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The exception was Jones Beach, where crowds started arriving at 7 a.m. to set up seats for the air show.
Beachgoers at Smith Point County Park in Shirley wore hoodies and closed-toe shoes on the boardwalk, and the lifeguards on duty had little to do with few people heading for the waves.
Shirley’s Pat and Dave Jolly said they saw the sun rise through the clouds and decided to head for the beach in the hopes of hearing some live music. They made their wish come true when a group began to take up residence on the next stage.
“We’re just sitting here relaxing. Normally we would barbecue with the family,” Pat Jolly said, adding that she is going to be starting a new job soon. “I’m not stressed out by the old one and can’t wait to start over.”