Roughly 100 students and veterans marched down Hempstead Turnpike to Elmont’s Veterans Square on Monday morning to honor those who have served the country and commemorate the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day.
They gathered at American Legion Post 1033 on Hill Avenue at 10 a.m., where they separated into groups based on the elementary schools that they attend and the organizations that they are involved in. Then, at 10:30, the children, veterans, families and school officials were off, with the legion members leading the scouts, Girl Scouts and students to the site a few thousand feet away.
Once they arrived at Hempstead Turnpike and Covert Avenue, attendees circled around and listened to local officials and veterans speak about what it means to serve the country.
“On this day, we are commemorating the services of all veterans of all wars,” Legion Commander Lecia Rodriques-Whyte told the crowd. “We remember how many women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their nation, defending the freedom of man and preserving our precious American heritage.”
Town Councilman Thomas Muscarella explained that Veterans Day is different from Memorial Day, which, he said, is dedicated to remembering “those who did not come back.”
Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, one year after the end of World War I. A decade later, the American Legion opened a post in Elmont to help serve those who have returned from war. There are now more than 100 veterans in the post, who teach students about the importance of serving both nationally and in the community.
“In Elmont, we don’t forget our veterans,” said Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages. “We don’t forget the people who served and sacrificed so much to make sure that our country is the safe country it is.”
Her brother, Carrié Solages, the area’s county legislator, also spoke about the sacrifices that local families make, pointing to Yasmin Patterson, who worked with Town of Hempstead officials to rename 116th Road in memory of Andre Mitchell. He died in 2008 while on tour in Iraq. “We thank [the veterans] so much for their courage [and] their bravery,” Solages said.
During the ceremony, various veterans and members of veterans’ organizations shared prepared speeches, George Dee played the bugle, and Legionnaires Salvatore Martella and Bill Depietro fired shots in the air. Then, Steve McManus, the legion’s immediate past commander, laid a poppy on top of the veterans’ monument. He explained that after World War I ended 100 years ago, poppies started to grow at Flanders Field in Belgium and northern France, where a million soldiers were wounded or killed. It has since become the official flower of military service.
“Time will come, the Commander of Us All will probably take this poppy and send it off to the wind, but with that it’ll be in the message for all of us to remember,” McManus said. “The poppy is there to remember our men and women who served us, so we can all be here today as one nation honoring their sacrifices.”
The ceremony concluded with Sergeant-at-Arms Ralph Esposito and First Vice Commander Bill Stegman raising the flag for all to see, before leading the crowd back to the post for refreshments and another flag raising.
The legion will hold other parades for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. For each of those, McManus said, the post will once again partner with the local elementary school district because “it’s important for children to know what the veterans have done for them.”
“If they’re willing to support their veterans,” he added, “that’s what matters.”