Hundreds of Floral Park residents gathered at Memorial Park Monday morning to honor and observe Veterans Day.
“Those who have served and those that are serving now are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” Floral Park American Legion Post 344 Commander Matt Cacciatore said.
“We remember how men and women set aside their civilian lives to serve our nation’s cause, preserve our freedom and protect our cherished way of life,” he said. “We honor our veterans today because without them, we know there would be no land of the free.”
Floral Park police redirected traffic down Tulip Avenue as the veterans, American Legion members, elected officials, Cub, Girl and Boy Scouts and residents with their children marched three blocks to the park from Atlantic Avenue.
This Veterans Day is the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 Armistice Day, to commemorate those who served in the conflict. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the title to Veterans Day, to recognize those who served in all conflicts.
“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent on Europe’s battlefields,” Cacciatore said.
The ceremony began following the march with moments of silence and recognition of the Legion’s prisoners of war and missing in action display, an empty chair at a table, representative of those who served and did not return, their fates unknown.
On the table was a candle, signifying a guiding light home, an upside down glass for the cheers missing soldiers cannot share, a lemon for the bitterness of their missing and salt, for the tears that are shed in their stead.
“The chair with their shirt is empty, because they are not here,” Vietnam veteran Robert Murray said, leading the POW-MIA ceremony.
“All of our veterans have protected our democracy, our freedom and our way of life,” Dolores Johnson, president of Floral Park American Legion Post 334 Ladies Auxiliary, said. “Veterans need each other, but more importantly our country needs our veterans.
“The best way to honor our veterans is to take an active part in maintaining freedom in America. We must teach our children about what it means to be an American.”
Cacciatore invited members of the local Cub, Girl and Boy Scout troops to the podium to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Floral Park American Legion post was founded in 1919 and marked its 99th consecutive year of conducting and participating in events that support veterans and foster patriotism in the community. Next year the post will celebrate its own centennial.