Memorial Day is a time not to remember war – but rather to remember warriors, Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said on Sunday during the village’s ceremony at Mineola Memorial Park around noon following the village parade.
“It’s not about shopping or sales, not a day to argue whether or not our military should be where they are; it’s not a day of political disagreements,” Strauss said. “Memorial Day is a day of awareness, a day of respect and a day to honor those who died while defending our nation, our freedom and our values.”
Those values the United States was built on, and that the military continue to protect, are echoed throughout organizations in the village, Strauss said, including the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance corps, auxiliary police, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
They are among organizations and community members who marched on Sunday during the annual Memorial Day parade hosted by the American Legion.
Elected officials including state Sen. Elaine Phillips, North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink, North Hempstead Town Councilman Angelo Ferrara and Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello attended the ceremony.
Earlier that day, the residents of East Williston kicked off Memorial Day with sweat and appreciation through the annual 5K race.
The race was followed by a parade of students and Scout members and a ceremony filled with veterans and hundreds of family members.
The race began at 8:30 a.m. with over 90 competitors.
Brother and sister duo Jack and Emmie Keys stole the race.
Jack, 15, was the first person to cross the line with a time of 17:45. Emmie, 13, was the first female to finish the race, with a time of 20:26. Together, along with their mother and younger brother and sister, they won in the fastest family category, as well.
“It’s just simple fun,” said Diane Debendettis, organizer of the 5K, which has been held for 39 years. “It’s nice to see everyone coming together and running. We have some really talented kids in this village.”
The race was followed by a parade that included the Willets Road School band, Cub Scout Pack 8 and Girl Scout troops 168 and 1071, East Williston Mayor David E. Tanner, Deputy Mayor Bonnie Parente, Trustee Christopher Siciliano and parents and veterans.
The parade culminated at the Village Green around noon, where Tanner led a ceremony and presented medals to the 5K winners.
“This is a day for us to recognize and appreciate all the veterans in our village and all who have fought for our freedom, day in and day out,” said Tanner. “We thank all men and women for their service, and their families.”
In the neighboring village of Williston Park, community groups and residents came together to march in a parade hosted by the American Legion.
Mineola High School senior Ameena Hamraz, said it was a bittersweet day.
It was both her first and last time marching in the parade as a member of the school’s marching band.
“I’m happy, but sad,” Hamraz said as the parade assembled. “It’s my last time wearing the uniform.”
Along with the high school band, local Scouts and village officials marched in Williston Park’s parade.
Rebecca Klar contributed reporting