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Veterans, service members honored at Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade

By Madina Toure

Thousands of Queens residents and elected officials came out to support veterans and active armed service members as a military band played at the 89th annual Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, billed as the largest in the country.

The parade, which started at Jayson Avenue and Northern Boulevard, featured decorated war veterans, public servants and civic leaders as marshals and honorees. The opening and closing ceremonies took place at the Divine Wisdom/St. Anastasia school at 45-11 245th St. in Douglaston.

Retired Lt. General Richard Mills, USMC, who has served in Italy, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq, served as the grand marshal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo marched during the parade. The parade also featured local high school marching bands, wreath-laying ceremonies and military organizations.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he has been attending the parade every year since he became comptroller.

He said the parades around the city are an important reminder that people who make sacrifices to better the country should “never, ever be forgotten.” He also stressed that the city needs to take care of its veterans.

“It’s equally important that the city government recognizes we have an obligation to 900,000 people who come home that are veterans and have such trials and tribulations regarding housing and job development,” Stringer said following the parade. “I hope this is not a one-day event but we think about this year round.”

Borough President Melinda Katz, who first came to the parade in 1998, said Queens has the most parades of any borough in the city.

Whitestone, College Point, Laurelton, Rosedale, Forest Hills, Maspeth and Glendale/Ridgewood also held parades.

“We’re home to the most veterans in the city of New York and the communities come out to not only honor those that are fallen but also pay tribute to those that are serving,” Katz said. “And it’s just a great day for families.”

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said his district is the only one that has three parades within 24 hours. This year marked his eighth time attending the parades of Little Neck/Douglaston, College Point and Whitestone.

“It truly shows that the communities here in northeast Queens understand what our veterans have done for us and the sacrifices they have made,” Vallone said.

Lorenzo Elleby, a staff sergeant for the U.S. Army, whose unit is Fort Totten, has been to the parade at least 20 times and has also attended other parades in the borough.

“They’re all good,” Elleby said. “It just gets better and better over time.”

Three teenage girls from Francis Lewis HS who are part of the school’s ROTC program also marched during the parade.

Hollis resident Leandra Budhram, 18, a non-commissioned master sergeant, said it was her last year marching in the parade because she is graduating from the program.

“It was nice to march for the veterans who work dearly for the United States and we thank them so much for their service,” Budhram said.

Her fellow ROTC mates expressed similar sentiments. Iris Yu, 17, of Fresh Meadows said she has more appreciation for what the parade represents.

“You get a sense of what people give up,” Yu said.

Flushing resident Arthur Hagendorf, 64, attended the parade for the first time with his wife, Gigi, 64, who has been many times because she once taught in the area.

“I think it symbolizes the greatness of this country and honors all the people’s lives who were defending it,” Arthur Hagendorf said.

St. Albans resident Melvin Jefferson, 52, attended the parade for the first time with his wife because their 6-year-old daughter was marching in it as part of the Girl Scouts. He said he enjoyed the old cars on display during the parade.

“It’s a time to get together and reflect on what happened so far in the United States,” Jefferson said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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