As the clock struck the 11th hour and 11th minute on Nov. 11, Levittowners gathered at Veterans Memorial Park to honor America’s war heroes.
Veterans from each of the military branches came together, surrounded by American flags and the Levittown Fire Department’s bright red trucks in the background. The 45-minute ceremony, led by Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr., was emotional for the crowd of around 200 people, highlighted by a few moments of recognizing the veterans present based on the wars they served in.
“The 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month [in 1918] was supposed to be the end of the war to end war,” Dunne said at the ceremony. “It was the signing of the armistice to end World War I.”
Until recent years, speakers at the ceremony pointed out there were several veterans who served in World War I, as well as World War II.
“Today, we recognize all of those among us who have taken an oath and swore to serve and protect our country,” American Legion Post 1711 Commander Francis [Frank] Marcinek said. “Regardless of your branch of service, the job you had or how long you served, you raised your hand as a committed service to the military. That’s a brave and selfless act.”
Marcinek noted that the nation needs to step up when it comes to helping veterans who are struggling through mental issues after their service. He added that 22 veterans per day commit suicide, an astonishingly high number.
“When you see someone wearing a hat or shirt that identifies themselves as a veteran, say thanks,” Marcinek said.
John Gonzalez led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Seconds later, fire department captain Fred McFarland sang the National Anthem. Thomas Flaherty led the opening prayer prior to moving speeches by Marcinek and Stasinski, as well as town clerk-elect Kate Murray and New York State Senator Kevin Thomas.
“It is a day we recognize the millions of men and women who answered when the nation called,” VFW Post 9592 Commander Peter Stasinski said. “Veterans Day continues to be a day of reflection. It is a day when all Americans should consider the freedom and liberty that has been passed down to us.”
As the ceremony neared completion, Dunne unveiled a brand-new street sign that will be hung on Jerusalem Avenue and Gardiners Avenue, saying, “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.” The sign features each of the logos for the area’s organizations made for and by veterans.
“Right here, we have 29 young men I grew up with who were killed in Vietnam,” Dunne said. “I went to Legislator John Ferretti and said, ‘Is there anything we can do?’”
And Ferretti got the job done, just in time for Veterans Day.
To top off the ceremony, Thomas showed his appreciation to the veterans, who he said enabled him to move to America as a child.
“I was an immigrant 10-year-old when I came here,” Thomas said. “Now, I stand before you as a state senator. It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the sacrifices all of you have done for me, someone who you did not know.”