Specialist Jeremiah Reuthe, one of the honorees at this year’s Memorial Day Parade in Great Neck, almost couldn’t attend this year’s ceremonies.
“There was a problem with young Specialist Reuthe’s attempt to get an extension on his leave, so his dad asked me to write a letter to his first sergeant and request the extension of his leave,” Great Neck Memorial Day Parade Chair Louise McCann explained, as Jeremiah and his father, Russell, both in uniform, stood behind her.
“And, what a surprise, it happened,” McCann said, “so we are very pleased and very proud to have Specialist Jeremiah Reuthe – 101st Airborne!”
Reuthe was one of the countless veterans and service members whom the Great Neck community came out to honor on Memorial Day, ranging from retiring Master Sgt. and Purple Heart recipient Julie Reuthe waving from atop a truck to grand marshal Mort Zimmerman, a World War II veteran.
Hundreds of people lined Middle Neck Road to cheer on marching veterans, service members, local officials and community members in the parade as marching bands played.
Many of them also gathered at the ceremony following at the Village Green, where service members posted the colors, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy band played the national anthem, and memorial wreaths were placed.
“We are well aware we live in perilous times,” Rabbi Robert Widom of Temple Emanuel said as he delivered the invocation. “We’re grateful to those who put themselves in harm’s way, those who sacrificed their lives to defend this land so our lives may remain tranquil.”
McCann, herself a U.S. Army veteran, implored the crowd to not forget this.
“Many of the people who let Memorial Day pass by without a second thought may owe their very existence to the courageous sacrifice of a soldier, sailor, airman or marine on foreign soil in some forgotten time,” McCann said at the ceremony.
“Today, out of all days, I hope that the American people can put aside their own personal agendas and take the time to remember those who are out of sight and therefore, unfortunately, out of mind.”
Zimmerman, a World War II veteran, said he was “proud and honored to share this moment” with family, veterans and the larger Great Neck community where he has lived for more than 50 years.
Zimmerman said the crowd represented “the best in our community and the patriotic spirit that defines our nation’s greatness,” adding, “I thank you for letting me share this moment with you. I look forward to cheering you on next year on my 96th birthday.”
Memorial Day also served as an opportunity for veterans, a handful of residents and members of the local fire services to march down to All Saints Church, the burial place of many other Great Neck veterans and firefighters – as indicated by American flags dotting dozens of graves.
Among them was a memorial site for Jonathan Ielpi, a firefighter who died trying to rescue people in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks – which sparked the ongoing War on Terror.
George Motchkavitz, a member of the Great Neck Alert Fire Company, implored the Junior Alerts – most likely not even born when Ielpi was alive – lined behind him to remember and follow his example of service.
“If you can do half of what he did in his life, a quarter of what he did, your life is a total success,” Motchkavitz said. “So we don’t forget him – we remember him today.”
All photos by Janelle Clausen