Baldwinites gathered on the cool, overcast morning of Monday, May 31st at 11 a.m. to commemorate and honor the fallen at a ceremony at Veteran’s Memorial Plaza in Silver Lake Park, organized by the American Legion Baldwin Post # 246 after attending one of the Baldwin Hot Rod Association.
Over a dozen local residents displayed their cars and motorcycles adorned with American, POW MIA, and Thin Blue Line flags as they drove from Weir Street in South Hempstead to Silver Lake Park. Steve Burke of the Hot Rod Association said they always attend the parade, but because of the pandemic, they have become the only parade for their sophomore year.
For Vietnam War veteran Joe Keating, the parade this year was “very different” due to Covid, but that at 75, he prefers the car parade to walking, as had been done in previous years.
Navy veteran Steve Hendrickson said he has been running these parades for years and wanted to remind people that Memorial Day is not just a holiday: âEveryone thinks this is just a BBQ weekend but they forget why we are doing this – that “is what I think has been lost.”
The car parade gave way to the ceremony where Legion members gave speeches about those who love them and who are no longer with us. Firefighters also presented a wreath for the fallen and a gun salute was carried out. Eventually the American flag was hoisted on full rod against a background of heavy gray clouds that carried no rain.
American Legion commander and veteran Robert Hare stated that veterans from various wars including World War II, Vietnam, Korea and Desert Storm were present to honor those who âgave their lives and served their country to to protect the rights of our founding fathers â. . “
Historians cannot definitely trace the origins of this holiday as different communities may have initiated these memories simultaneously after the Civil War. In fact, some records indicate that the earliest memorial service may have been organized by a group of freed slaves after the Confederation surrendered in 1865.
The federal government officially recognized Waterloo, New York, which hosted the annual event on May 5, 1866, as the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1868, General John A. Logan declared May 30th as Decoration Day “to sprinkle flowers or otherwise adorn the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”
By 1890, every state that celebrated the event had made it a public holiday, with the exception of the southern states, which paid homage to the dead on various days up until World War I. From then on, the decoration day reminded of fallen soldiers from the Second World War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Finally, in 1971, the government officially declared Memorial Day a public holiday on the third Monday of each month to give employees a three-day weekend.
Fifty years after the holiday was made official, Vietnam War veteran Gary R. Fitzgerald, who hasn’t missed a Memorial Day parade since serving as a Boy Scout in the 1950s, except last year due to Covid, sums the mood in Baldwin best when he said, âGod bless America. [Today] Everyone should work to come together and love one another. “