By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
At the intersection of Grand Ave and 69th Street, dozens of Maspeth residents paid their respects to all veterans at the 37th Annual Memorial Candlelight Ceremony on Monday evening.
The event was hosted by the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, and organized by Chairperson Carole Stein, Eileen Hagen and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank.
Following an invocation by Reverend Joseph Wilson, and the Pledge of Allegiance recited by attendees, this year’s Grand Marshall, Paul A. Feddern, delivered a speech on the purpose of Memorial Day.
“Memorial day marks the beginning of summer for some people,” said Feddern, who enlisted to serve in the Vietnam War in 1967. “But just remember that is not the purpose of Memorial Day. We are here to honor all the people that have given their lives in sacrifice. Keep that in mind when you start your barbecue.”
Feddern, a longtime Forest Hills resident, says that he has attended the Maspeth vigil for over ten years. Following his deployment he was an officer in the NYPD.
No war, veteran or victim was excluded from the vigil. In total six candles were lit and carried by representatives from various local chapters to the front of the ceremony.
One candle each was lit for veterans of World War l, World War ll, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. A separate candle, honored by Francis Cardinal Spellman Council, Knights of Columbus and Ladies Auxiliary, was reserved for Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and all American victims of terrorism. The last candle was lit for all prisoners of war (POW) and those who went missing in action (MIA) during military conflict.
“May the light of these candles light our deceased American veteran’s journey and may perpetual peace concur their immortal souls,” said Stein, after the candleholders stood together in unity.
Stein also took it upon herself to write original lyrics to recite at the ceremony to reflect on the impact of Memorial Day and what it represents to veterans and regular Americans. Her act was a mix of slam poetry and song that Stein says she spent two weeks crafting.
“Their courage, love and devotion we must remember. Their legacy shall never fade away,” Stein rendered during her spoken word performance.
To conclude the ceremony, students and performing arts players from the St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy of Queens sang “God Bless America” as the sun set.
The vigil precedes Maspeth’s Memorial Day Parade which will be held on Monday, May 29 and begin at 1 p.m at the same spot, Maspeth Memorial Park.