By Gabriel Rom
The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Association is hitting the ground early this year. Organizers released this week a list of honorees from Queens and beyond for what historically has been the largest Memorial Day parade in the country.
The group has named Three-Star General Richard P. Mills named grand marshal of the 89th annual Memorial Day Parade. Mills, who is from Long Island, led the First Marine Division, one of the most storied units in American history, and has served in Afghanistan.
Also being honored are Queens Borough President Melinda Katz as Woman of the Year, FDNY Deputy Commissioner Robert Sweeny as Man of the Year and Little Neck businessman and patriot Mohsen Zandieh with the Community Service Award.
The festival will start at around 2 p.m. on Memorial Day.
The approximately two-hour parade down Northern Boulevard from Great Neck to Douglaston not only incorporates national participants and a large military presence, but manages to include all the local community, cultural and youth organizations that want to march.
More than 150 groups, including active military, U.S. and Korean veterans, horseback and motorcycle riders, antique and military vehicles, service organizations, emergency services, schools, churches and other organizations, march. Groups from all over the United States regularly attend.
This year’s parade will also mark the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the high school and college-based program that inspires and commissions 30 percent of the officers who serve in the Armed Forces.
A bevy of city and state lawmakers are expected to make an appearance.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill di Blasio, city Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito (D-Manhattan) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are all expected.
A beloved tradition in northern Queens and Long Island, the parade has faced funding struggles in past years.
In 2014 The Little Neck and Douglaston communities came together each week after the middle of March and took on the challenge of starting the parade committees completely from scratch, relying heavily on the helping hands of the Manhattan-based United War Veterans Council, which agreed to lend its expertise to the people of northeast Queens for this year’s event.
With the help of a pair of successful fund-raisers, the parade committee, headed by elected Chairmen Douglas Montgomery and Charlie McBride, was able to raise the nearly $30,000 needed to put on the show in just a few short months.
This year’s event will include a full day of ceremonies that honor American soldiers, past and present. Refreshments will be offered after the parade’s closing ceremony.
The LND Parade, organized and conducted entirely by local volunteers, is well over one mile – longer than similar parades in Chicago or Washington, DC.
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]