With each war the United States fights, thousands of soldiers are categorized as Missing in Action; they may be dead, they may be alive, they may have become a prisoner of war. This year, the annual Maspeth Memorial Day Parade paid respect to those soldiers.
Titled "Maspeth Honors the M.I.A.'s and P.O.W.'s," this year's parade once again marched through Maspeth along Grand Avenue, culminating with a moving ceremony at Maspeth Memorial Park, located at 69th Street and Grand Avenue.
The event has quickly become one of the biggest and most thoughtful parades in Queens. As in the previous 25 years, hundreds of local residents and organizations were joined by members of the military to march in the parade, including nonprofit groups, marching bands, and school kids.
The grand marshals for this year's parade were Mary Anne Walter, a Maspeth native with a history of active participation in the community, and John Dolan, a veteran of World War II who has been living in Maspeth for the past 38 years. Before the parade, Dolan said that he never expected to have the honor of leading the annual Maspeth parade.
"There are people who throw themselves out there to be recognized, and there are people who like to stay in the background," he said. "I like to stay in the background."
Vietnam veteran Jimmy Turano watched the parade from a shady spot in front of the Knights of Columbus on Grand Avenue. He said he comes to the parade every year, and that it is only getting more impressive.
"The parade is bigger and better and more meaningful than ever," said Turano, adding that the residents of Maspeth really understand the meaning of Memorial Day. "The community really looks forward to it, and I think people here are more appreciative of the sacrifice."
He said the parade and Memorial Day in general always makes him feel "grateful."
"It makes me grateful to be alive, grateful to have a family, grateful to be spared from death," said Turano.
Pat Toro, Vietnam veteran and president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, was this year's featured speaker. He spoke of the shared experience that only those that have served can understand.
"All veterans share an awful knowledge, we all experienced and survived a terrifying experience," said Toro, who said not a day goes by that he doesn't stop and reflect on all the people he served with who didn't make it home. "The deep pain still lingers."
A new addition to this year's ceremony was the presentation of the Maspeth Veterans Award. The award was given to two Maspeth residents who served in World War II, Adolph Cello and Stephen Marrone. Master of Ceremonies Ken Rudzewick called Cello and Marrone "two gems of the Greatest Generation."
Lieutenant Ed Ferguson was part of a group of Marines who marched in the parade. He and his fellow troops are stationed in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and were visiting New York as part of the annual Fleet Week.
"It's great to see the support of all of the local people," he said. "It's been great to have the opportunity to come up here to New York; everybody has been so friendly."