Joe Scarola named Memorial Day Parade grand marshal


Joe Scarola, the American Legion commander of Nassau County, has been named grand marshal of the Rockville Centre Memorial Day Parade, which will take place on May 29, at 10 a.m.

“It’s very much an honor,” Scarola said. “Memorial Day is the one day a year when we stop and show our gratitude for the people who sacrificed for our country. No other country in the world has the freedoms we have.”

Scarola was a U.S. Navy officer for four years, from 1965 to 1969, and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He was initially deployed to the Mediterranean, where he served as a programmer, handling computer operations on one of the fleet’s ships, helping track targets, plot courses and communicate with other ships. He was later deployed on a vessel that traveled near the Arctic Circle, tracking Russian submarines at the height of the Cold War.

“It was an honor to serve my country for those four and a half years,” Scarola said. “God has been good to me in many ways. During the Vietnam War, I was fortunate to spend my time in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.”

Having spent two months at a computer school, he returned home from the military and got a job building computers for companies on Wall Street. Eventually, he settled down with his wife of 56 years, Regina, and they had four children. They now have nine grandchildren.

“Sometimes when we all get together, it’s chaos and bedlam … and a blessing,” he said.

In 2008, Scarola took over as commander of American Legion Post No. 303 in Rockville Centre, and for the past 15 years, he has been in charge of selecting others to serve as parade grand marshals.

This year, however, marks a milestone for Scarola. For the past year he has served as the Nassau County commander of the Legion, overseeing 52 posts across Long Island.

“It has been a very rewarding year for me,” he said. “It has been an honor working with the posts and helping them.”

Not only does the American Legion support local veterans, but it also supports the community at large. Post 303 supports Little League teams and hosts a Law and Order Night each October to pay tribute to a member of the Police Department and Fire Department for outstanding work.

“We don’t show enough appreciation,” Scarola said. “There are so many people in the Rockville Centre community who really appreciate the police and firemen who give so much.”

The Memorial Day ceremonies will begin with the parade at 10 a.m., which will kick off in parking field No. 2, between North Centre and North Village avenues, and proceed past St. Agnes Cathedral and down Maple Avenue toward the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, on Oceanside Road. A service will follow the parade at around 11 a.m. in Veterans Park, in front of the Recreation Center, to pay respect to local servicemen and women who fought and died for the country.

“It’s good that after the pandemic, we’re able to get back to normal,” Scarola said. “I’m glad to see people are coming back, and I’m looking forward to the parade.”

As a special tribute to local veterans, active-duty military, reserves, and members of the National Guard, this year the village will display banners in honor of those who have served. The banners will be on display along Maple Avenue through Veterans Day.

Following the ceremonies, community members are invited to join members of Post 303, at 197 Maple Ave., for hot dogs and refreshments.