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Thousands honor vets in Douglaston on Memorial Day

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Throngs of Queens revelers showed dozens of out−of−state members of the armed forces great gratitude during the annual Douglaston−Little Neck Memorial Day Parade Monday..

Members of the Troy, N.Y.−based Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry and the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Kentucky led marchers, local leaders and veterans down Northern Boulevard between Jayson and Alameda avenues during the 81st annual parade.

The celebration is the largest Memorial Day parade in the nation, attracting more than 45,000 people from all over Queens and Long Island.

“It’s a great parade. It’s good to see a turnout like this,” said Maj. Bill Parker of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., a member the 101st.

Good weather and plenty of music and floats were more than enough to keep the parade watchers entertained while they celebrated from the sidewalks with American flags and other patriotic paraphernalia.

The ceremony included the firing of a cannon, in remembrance of the lives lost overseas.

Lucy Iglio, of Ozone Park, said she has come to the parade for years with her daughter, Pam Minching, because it was a fun way to start the summer.

“We enjoy the marchers and the bands,” Iglio said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall and a bevy of Queens elected officials also marched in the parade and reminded everyone of the true meaning behind the holiday. Within the last 12 months, there were four soldiers with Queens connections who died while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Your presence here makes [the soldiers] feel that no one is forgotten,” Marshall told the crowd at the parade’s closing celebrations at the parking lot of St. Anastasia Church.

The parade’s grand marshal, Master Sgt. Chet Marcus, thanked the community for its support of the armed services. Marcus, who used to work out of Ft. Totten, said he and his soldiers always get a morale boost during the Little Neck parade because it reminded them of what they were fighting for.

“Here in Little Neck and Douglaston, we see a community that stands in silence,” he said. “We hope with actions like this, we can continue to show our faith in them.”

Military members were not the only ones getting accolades during the parade. State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) awarded a citation to Deputy Police Commissioner George Grasso, this year’s parade’s “Man of the Year.”

Grasso, who has lived in the community for 27 years with his family, said the parade has always brought the neighborhood a sense of pride.

“This is such a wonderful place to raise a family,” the deputy commissioner said.

Bayside resident Joe Jensen, 44, who came to the parade with his wife, Patricia, and 3 12−year−old daughter, Jaime, agreed and said he was marking the holiday by reminding his loved ones about the true reason for the holiday.

Jensen’s father, uncles and cousins were all veterans who survived various wars overseas and he said he does not want the community to forget their hard work.

“Memorial Day is about the members who fought for this country,” he said. “It’s not about the sales at the car dealership.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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