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Veterans honored at service

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Among the dozens of American veterans from Floral Park who stood in the chilly breeze Sunday morning in recognition of their wartime sacrifice, at least one focused his eyes on images far removed from Veterans Memorial Park.

“A lot of memories, good and bad, flood through your mind,” said Ray Howell, an Army veteran who fought in the Korean War between 1951 and 1953, after the ceremony.

But war is no longer simply a memory, and the haunting images are no longer of battlefields an ocean away.

With the United States embarking upon a war unlike any other in its history, the celebration of Veterans Day assumed a deeper level of meaning among the more than 100 Floral Park residents who gathered around the town war memorial Sunday at 11 a.m.

“We already lost 5,000 in one day,” Howell said of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. “It’s incredible that this can happen 30 miles from your home lawn.”

American Legion Post #334 in Floral Park has commemorated Veterans Day since 1920, back when it was known as Armistice Day and marked the conclusion of World War I, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

“Memorial Day is for those who have given their lives, today is for those who have served,” said legion member James Conti, who served between 1964 and 1966 during the Berlin Wall crisis.

Reading aloud from an old newspaper clipping during the brief ceremony, Commander William Corbett reminded those assembled of how powerful an impact veterans’ sacrifices had made on their lives.

“It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech,” he said. “It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.”

In addition to recognizing veterans for their contributions to free society, Corbett also tapped their collective memories to offer reassurances that the nation would again rise above the challenge of war.

“The important thing to remember is that as a great nation, we came through sneak attacks, depressions, assassinations and disasters,” Corbett said in his closing statement. “We will come through this one as a nation — stronger and more united.”

Floral Park mayor Ann Corbett, who is also president of the American Legion Auxiliary and William Corbett’s wife, said the veterans were providing much-needed support within the community.

“People are concerned about the future,” she said at a hot-dog party following the ceremony. “They look to the vets — there’s a symbol in them.”

Ann Corbett said an unusual swell of patriotism, coupled with a newfound respect for uniformed servicemen, has brought the Floral Park community much closer together since Sept. 11.

Although some of the veterans were so impassioned about the current conflict they wanted to return to the armed forces, they said their younger counterparts are proving themselves up to the task.

“The younger generation is starting to get involved for the first time,” said Richard Mooney, a Vietnam War veteran with the Marines.

For Max Miner, 8, who enjoyed refreshments in the basement of the Legion Hall with his friend John Corradi, the outcome of the war in Afghanistan is a foregone conclusion.

“I think that we’re gonna win it easily because the whole world is helping us,” he said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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