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Forest Hills parade swells in size

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The patriotic mood on Metropolitan Avenue Sunday was as palpable as the noon-time sun as people donned their sunglasses and lined the streets in recognition of the nation’s veterans for the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade.

Standing near the beginning of the procession at 74th Avenue, Sgt. Maj. Carl Green and Lance Cpl. Jake Turner from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina saluted their fellow Marines as they marched by.

“I’m just here to support the Marines and the sailors — all branches, really,” said Green.

Marines and sailors marched by as a band played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It wasn’t just professional service members, though, who came out to show their appreciation.

Arvien Siswanto and Steven Chen of the Francis Lewis High School Junior ROTC Patriot Battalion were dressed in their uniforms as they headed for their marching positions.

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Siswanto. “It makes you feel like you’re part of something much bigger.” The 16-year old said it was possible that he may choose to enter the armed services when he graduates from high school.

“It feels like an honor being able to march with people who have done such big things in their lives,” added Chen.

The parade had been organized by the members of American Legion Centennial Post No. 1424, and emcee Tom Long said he thought it was larger than last year’s on account of more troops coming home.

“I hope so,” said Vietnam veteran Michael Velaz. “I hate short parades!”

The parade marched down Metropolitan Avenue to Remsen Cemetery, where Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Robert O’Malley laid a wreath in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Borough President Helen Marshall all participated in a somber ceremony in the ambient shade of the cemetery’s tall trees.

“We know Queens is a very patriotic borough,” said Marshall, who urged those in attendance to pay a visit to veterans in hospitals. “Because of our military, we are protected.”

Kew Gardens resident Zoltan Szollosy served two years of active duty in Germany during the Vietnam War and 27 years in the Army Reserves, including time at Fort Totten in Bay Terrace. For the past 32 years he has been marching with his fellow members of the American Legion post.

“I like to march with this group. We pay our respects in the cemetery for service men who served this country going back to the Revolutionary War,” said the 71-year-old, who credited his spry step to serving in the infantry. “A couple of years ago they let me ride in the float because I’m a senior citizen. This year I told them I’m marching. I’m not that senior!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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