By Gina Martinez
Hundreds of Queens residents and elected officials came out to support veterans and active armed service members at the 90th annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, widely known as the largest in the nation.
The parade stretched over a mile, starting on Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue and ending at 245th Street in Douglaston. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and U.S. Reps. Grace Meng and Tom Suozzi were among the special guests at the parade. Decorated war veterans, and civic and community leaders also walked the route.
Before the parade began, an interfaith service was held at Little Neck Community Church, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Monument Park.
The parade featured Francis Lewis High school cheerleaders, while members of the high school’s ROTC program and patriot battalion drill team marched and played music entertaining parade-goers.
Kicking off the parade was Grand Marshal Colonel Terrance C. Holiday, whose major decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Air Force Commendation Medal; and the Air Force Achievement Medal, also with two oak leaf clusters, he also served as the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs under the Bloomberg administration and the de Blasio administration until 2014. He was followed by Honorary Grand Marshal Brigadier General Edward Thomas, Jr., director of public affairs for the secretary of the Air Force in the Pentagon. Thomas Jr. is responsible for developing and executing global communication processes to build understanding and support for the Air Force.
Kathryn Cross served as an Honorary Grand Marshal for her status as a Navy Gold Star Mother. Her son, Tyler Connely, was killed while serving in the Navy. Cross is involved with many veterans organizations, including the Department of Veteran Affairs Voluntary Services.
Susan Seinfeld, retired Community Board 11 district manager, was named Woman of the Year for her work establishing organizations within her neighborhood with Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows). State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) was named Man of the Year for his work in Albany, which includes passing a bill which put a limit on the increase of market values for co-ops and a law that makes a tax credit available for small businesses that hire senior citizens.
Among the parade-goers were Joanne and Mary , who have both lived in Little Neck for over 40 years but did not want to give their last names. They said they have attended the parade for at least the last 35 years.
“I come out every year,” Joanne said. “It’s a great parade that honors those who served our country. I live up the street and I always come with my children. I just think the spirit at this particular parade is great and they keep adding things to it every year, and a lot of people come around from all over to see it. There’s always a great variety with spirited people watching. It makes the parade more enjoyable and very diverse, as well.”
Joanne’s friend and neighbor, Mary, came to see her husband, a volunteer firefighter, take part in the parade.
“My husband has been a volunteer fireman for the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department for 40 years,” she said. “He’s driving a fire truck. The people who volunteer are very brave. Not too many people get up at 3 a.m. and run to something like that. This is a very good group of people, close-knit and community-oriented. I’m here to show support.”
Parents and children lined up taking selfies and pictures. The rain stopped by the time the parade began at 2 p.m., but the weather remained cloudy and chilly. Parade-goers agreed it was not the perfect day for a barbecue, but still wanted to come out to show support.
Whitestone, College Point, Laurelton, Rosedale, Forest Hills, Maspeth and Ridgewood also held parades, Councilman Vallone attended College Point, Whitestone and Little Neck-Douglaston Parades and thanked the organizers and volunteers at each parade.
“Today we can hold our heads high as we remember and honor the men and women and their families who have given everything including their lives, so that we may live free and proudly as American citizens,” Vallone said “As I marched in our fourth parade as Council member, I couldn’t be more proud to represent this great district as once again our communities showed their respect and undying gratitude for our veterans with three local parades within 24 hours. We have always stood behind our local heroes as well as our police, firefighters and first responders, and that was clearly evident this holiday weekend.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart