By Naeisha Rose
The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade drew thousands of attendees Monday who lined the sidewalks along a 1.5-mile stretch of Northern Boulevard from Jayson Avenue to 245th Street on the 91st anniversary of the procession.
Veterans, military vehicles and cars from past and present were represented in the march, which also included Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Little Neck) and more.
WABC7 estimated that there was a crowd of 100,000 onlookers.
Many of onlookers during the march waved the American flag or wore red, white and blue, and some of the servicemen in the crowd wore black hats that listed the war they fought in, including Sgt. Mike Stern, a Vietnam War veteran.
Stern was a machine gunner from 1969 to 1970 and served with thousands of members of the 1st Calvary in a helicopter assault team, later going on to serve as a drill sergeant for six years at Fort Dix.
Stern grew up in Hollis and was drafted to serve at 19 years old. He currently lives in Bayside, which he has called home for the past 20 years.
“I’m here for all the guys that I saw that died over there,” Stern said. “I saw a lot of people die or get seriously injured. That is what today is about — the dead soldiers.”
While this was not the first time that Stern attended this parade, it was the first time for sisters Gabrielle Fardella and Christina Roth.
“I’ve never seen a Memorial Day Parade, so it’s my first time,” said Fardella, who drove from Plainview, L.I. “My sister lived nearby [the parade] and the kids are enjoying it…and she said it is one of the biggest [parades] in the nation.”
Fardella brought her husband and her three kids to the parade.
“It is an important day to remember people who died for this country and helped to keep it what it is today,” said Fardella.
Roth, a resident of Douglaston for five years, came to the event with her two daughters because she thought they were finally old enough to bring to the event.
“I wanted the kids to see a parade and I thought it was important to support everyone walking in the parade,” said Roth.
One of the retired servicemen in the parade was PFC Sterling “Sax” Bailey, a Vietnam War veteran who served from 1967 to 1969. He is a saxophonist from Port Jefferson.
“I remember the helicopters, the friends that I lost and the police corps,” said Bailey, who was a point man and led his troops in the 4th Infantry Division with his M60 machine gun.
The jazz saxophonist was happy to be a part of the parade.
“They asked me to play in the parade,” said Bailey. “I had to learn all the armed forces songs and memorize them.”
Bailey learned to play the songs for the Marines, the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard in a week.
“The 4th Division… I will never forget them,” said Bailey.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose