Rockville Centre remembers American sacrifice and valor during Memorial Day Parade


“As you commemorate this Memorial Day, whether it be at a barbecue, poolside, at a soccer tournament, or just being among family and friends, it’s important to remember that the freedoms we often take for granted are not free,” Paul Casazza, vice commander of American Legion Post 303, told a crowd of a few hundred outside the John A. Anderson Recreation Center. “They are paid for by the sacrifice and valor of true heroes.”

Hundreds of residents lined up along Maple Avenue on Monday morning waving small American flags as veterans, scouts, members of the fire department and others marched in recognition of fallen soldiers.

Adjacent to the veteran monuments along Oceanside Road, a ceremony, including performances by the South Side High School wind ensemble and the St. Agnes Cathedral Choir, followed the parade.

Walter Paruch, the parade’s grand marshal, remembered three friends he grew up with in Oceanside, who were killed in Vietnam. “I miss them every day when I pass a school,” he told the crowd. “When I see the blue sky, I miss those guys.”

He noted the anxiety that the families of service members feel when their loved ones are away from home fighting for their country. “Your presence here tells them that their country stands behind them,” Paruch added, “and their friends and neighbors join in the longing for the day they safely return.”

Francis X. Murray remembered his cousin, Arthur J. Murray Jr., whose helicopter was shot down in Vietnam. Hempstead Town Supervisor asked those in attendance to also remember First Lt. Ronald Winchester, 25, of Rockville Centre, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001 and was on his second tour in Iraq in 2004, when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

“I listen to these children playing in the playground here and I think about how Ronald will never have the chance to have children of his own,” Gillen said. “His mother will never have the chance to have those grandchildren because of his sacrifice for our country.”

The village concluded the ceremony by unveiling a new monument — a plaque with 284 names of Rockville Centre residents that served in World War I. Murray found the metal plate in the basement of Village Hall within the last year.

“We don’t know how it got down there or where it was before,” Murray said, adding that it may have been on the wall at Village Hall before the building was remodeled in the 1970s. He notified Frank Colon Jr., commander of American Legion Post 303, who had the plaque refurbished and put on a stone.

“It makes families who still live here see their loved ones on that wall,” Murray said. “There are great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers on that wall.”