Port Washington remembers veterans with Memorial Day parade

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Rain didn’t stop Port Washington veterans from marching down Main Street and Port Washington Boulevard in the annual Memorial Day parade to honor fallen soldiers on Monday.

It also didn’t halt the support they received from a large crowd on Main Street, with small children standing on the edge of sidewalks holding American flags, and adults and fellow veterans clapping and saluting.

Patriotic tunes blared from Port Washington school bands’ instruments and cheerleaders waved red, white and blue pompoms as they marched beside veterans groups, police and fire personnel, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and veteran supporters.

“This day is for our veterans,” Kathy Santoli, a Port Washington resident, said. “We’re honoring the veterans.”

Burt Lewis, a Port Washington resident of 76 years, who was deployed to Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall, was American Legion Post 509’s grand marshal and led the parade.

Andrew Tollefsen, the senior vice commander at the Port Washington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1819, who fought in the Battle of Hamburger Hill in the Vietnam War, was the VFW’s grand marshal.

Tollefsen said he got involved with the VFW because the government was not helping veterans.

“I thought ‘you know I better get in there and try to help my guys,’” he said. “I wear a lot of hats and I wear them proudly and I would do it again.”

Following the parade, the VFW and America Legion held a memorial ceremony at the John Phillip Sousa Memorial Band Shell, honoring veterans of all American wars.

The Rev. Gary Parker of Saint Stephen’s Church opened the ceremony, citing the importance of remembering military men and women responsible for the country’s freedom.

“Today we are here to honor those who have served our country and have given their lives so we may stand here and still live in freedom,” Parker said. “We need to be constantly reminded of our gift of freedom and those who gave all to make sure future generations continue to know life in a free democratic society.”

John Chalker, commander of the VFW in Port Washington, read “Flanders Field,” a poem honoring veterans and their service.

John Fiore, chaplain of the VFW, said he is always touched by the children who come out and wave American flags along Main Street as veterans march.

“Us guys up here think about every single day of her lives and we dedicate one day to these folks that died before us,” Fiore said.

Four soldiers, aiming rifles into the sky five feet away from the water, participated in a gun salute that capped off the service — one last tribute to fallen veterans.

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