By Katy Gagnon
Thousands of military men and women, marching bands, elected officials and residents streamed down Northern Boulevard in Little Neck Monday as Mayor Michael Bloomberg saluted veterans at the nation's largest Memorial Day parade.
The 81st annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade kicked off around 2 p.m. from the intersection of Jason Avenue and Northern Boulevard, traveled east and ended in the school yard of St. Anastasia's School at 244th Street.
The parade drew 20,000 spectators from the city and Long Island. The roughly 35,000 parade participants came from throughout the state and beyond. One high school marching band from Breese, Ill. took part in the parade.
Children, parents and veterans watched the procession from sidewalks and grandstands. American flags hung from telephone posts lining the boulevard.
Marines, sailors and soldiers clad in camouflage marched to the beat of an Army marching band. Spectators cheered and waved as the servicemen passed. Some shouted “thank you” to the troops.
Drummers and bagpipers from the FDNY Emerald Society roused cheers and applause from little children and their parents. Bloomberg and other elected officials marched closely behind the band.
“It's hometown America showing their support,” said Maj. Gen. William Terpeluk, commanding officer of the 77th Regiment at Fort Totten and the parade's grand marshal.
Manhattan resident Ellen O'Malley watched the parade with her husband, He is a World War II veteran.
“It's important to remember the soldiers who defend our nation, the history of our nation and patriotism,” she said.
In addition to Terpeluk, the parade also honored a handful of area residents.
Michael Ricatto, president of Ricatto Enterprises, was named the parade's Man of the Year. TimesLedger columnist and photographer Dee Richard was the parade's Woman of the Year. Community Board 11 Chairman Steve Newman was give the Douglas S. Mackay Community Service Award.
After the march, the servicemen stood in formation in the school yard as the mayor, parade officials and elected officials addressed the crowd.
Bloomberg spoke of the history of Memorial Day and recited the names of four Queens veterans who recently died in service. Bloomberg called on the crowd to honor the veterans by “making this country, this state and this city the best it can be.”
Borough President Helen Marshall, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, City Councilmen David Weprin (D-Hollis) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and others expressed their thanks for the troops. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) was joined by her father Larry Quinn, a World War II veteran.
“Thank you because without you this isn't America,” Thompson said.
Terpeluk said it meant a lot to see so much support for veterans at the parade each year and even more during wartime.
“From one Memorial Day to the next, you have to count the number of dead,” he said.
Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.