Despite the rainy weather, dozens of veterans, community members and elected officials gathered on Saturday to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
The annual Memorial Day tradition, led by the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, included wreath-laying ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park, the World War I Memorial at Garlinge Triangle, and the monument at Memorial Square, where 128 of Maspeth’s war dead are remembered.
“These brave souls deserve our gratitude,” said Ken Rudzewick, a veteran and longtime member of the organization who hosted the day’s events. “It’s because of them and the many Americans who went before them that we enjoy the great nation we live in today.”
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell acknowledged that his generation often forgets the sacrifices that were made by older veterans.
“That’s why it’s so important to do what we are doing today and share the memories of those who fought for our country,” Barnwell stressed.
Korean War veteran Constantino Carbone Jr., who helped lay the wreaths at each of the sites, noted that 36,752 American soldiers died in Korea.
“These kids gave their lives for freedom,” said Carbone, who served 15 months in combat and will be one of the grand marshals of next year’s Memorial Day Parade, which has been cancelled the last two years due to COVID. “But that’s what we were fighting for.”
Families of fallen soldiers lost in more recent wars also attended the services. Moura Hernandez and her son Juan came to Memorial Square to honor her brother Robert Rodriguez, who was only 21 when he was killed in Iraq in 2003.
Residents said the rain couldn’t dampen their commitment to pay their respects to those lives that were lost.
“They fought in the rain so we can come out in the rain to remember them.” said Marianne Kiskorne, who held a sign adorned with hearts and the words “Thank You.”
Two wreaths were later placed at the American Legion monument and the Civil War Memorial in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Maryanna Zero, president of the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, said she feared the day would be a wash but felt proud that so many from the community participated.
“Next year we’ll have our parade,” Zero told the crowd, “a parade that is going to be not just the best of this borough, but the best of all boroughs.”