The party has been an O’Neill’s tradition for nearly 30 years. Owner George O’Neill said his brothers were policemen, so the Honor Legion is near and dear to his heart.
The Honor Legion is a 109-year-old fraternal organization that exists to provide aid, in the form of social gatherings, scholarship programs, and emotional support to those who survive the deceased officers.
“Their loved ones are not forgotten,” said Phil Panzarella, a retired NYPD lieutenant who is on the board of the Honor Legion. “It also helps people left behind to bond with others who have lost their loved ones.”
Gerard, who asked that his last name be withheld, and whose father was killed in the line of duty in 1981, has attended the party every year since he was seven. Over the years, he has built a network of extended family, and even if he ends up seeing them only once a year, he feels close to them.
“It’s the only time of the year that I enjoy Christmas because we all get together, all the widows and children,” he said.
Twenty-seven years later, the Honor Legion is a part of his two-year-old son Aiden’s life as well. He shows Aiden photos and tells stories about the grandfather he will never know.
“It never gets any easier,” said Gerard. “You accept it but you never forget it.”