"We must never forget their heroism and courage in their fight against tyranny," said Bill Melnick, master of ceremonies, during the United Community Civic Association ceremony in McManus Memorial Park. "Whatever the circumstances about it, we must continue to support our troops."
Blessed with a light breeze and bright sun, three veterans groups, a junior ROTC honor guard, a community dance troop and a city Corrections Department pipe band marched down 81st Street and gathered in front of the park.
The street was awash with patriotism with American flags waving from every doorstop and yellow ribbons around every oak tree.
Between speeches from retired Army Col. Sante Venanzini and civic President Rose Marie Poveromo, musicians sang the praises of soldiers who made "the ultimate sacrifice" and men and women currently defending the nation.
The Antioch Baptist Church choir of Corona belted out the national anthem, the police bagpipe band played a somber rendition of "Amazing Grace" and corrections Officer Leo Christie performed "God Bless America" on the saxophone.
The office of state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) gave an award to Long Island City's junior ROTC drill team, which recently won a national tournament in Florida.
Afterward the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens dance team entertained the crowd with the number "All That Jazz" from the popular film and show "Chicago."
Memorial Day had special resonance for two of the girls with family in Iraq.
Kayla Toma's father was deployed to the Middle East after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The 11-year-old said she thinks of him often. Ashley Boyle, 12, has an uncle over there. Both girls said it is important to honor their sacrifice.
It was a sentiment echoed by Sue Luzzul of Jackson Heights, who said she was disappointed with the turnout for the event. The dozens of spectators were nearly outnumbered by the participants, who included an honor guard from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, members of the Jewish War Veterans and a squad of men from the Queens County American Legion.
"I think many more people could profit from the remembrance," Luzzul said. "I think people tend to get numb. Sometimes you just cannot absorb any more misery or sorrow."
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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