Remembering The Fallen, Hailing Those Who Serve


Hicksville holds Memorial Day Service

A group of veterans from Hicksville organizations listen durig the Memorial Day ceremony. (Photos by Frank Rizzo)

Though it is set aside to honor those who died in wartime, Memorial Day also gives living veterans their due. One of the most moving moments at Hicksville’s Memorial Day service was when emcee Jack Hayne asked those who served to stand up and be recognized as he called out military interventions ranging from World War II to such nearly forgotten actions as the invasion of Grenada in 1983.

Gregory Fallon, commander of the American Legion Charles Wagner Post 421, speaks at lectern. Listening are, from the left: Robert Chiappone, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Veterans of Foreign Wars William M. Gouse Jr. Post #3211 Commander Bill Walden; and emcee and commander of the Jewish War Veterans Gieir-Levitt Post 655 Jack Hayne.

Hayne himself served in both WWII and Korea. Commander of the Jewish War Veterans Gieir-Levitt Post 655 of Old Bethpage—the parade/service’s host organization—Hayne was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. After the war he attended West Point Military Academy, graduating in June 1949 and was enlisted in Army from 1949 to 1964. He served in Korea from August 1950 to March 1952.

The other WWII vets in attendance ceremony were Hicksville VFW members Robert Obermeyer (past post commander 1959-60) and Shelly Oken.

The inclement weather canceled the parade that normally steps off at the Sears on Broadway and ends up at the Veterans’ Memorial Park fronting the middle school. The post-parade ceremony was also held indoors, in the middle school auditorium.

Joe Messana, at lectern, past commander of the Catholic War Veterans Joseph Barry Post 1946, which was disbanded after Memorial Day 2016. Messana was named Grand Marshal for this year’s parade. At left is VFW Post 3211 Commander William Walden and partially hidden by Messna is emcee Jack Hayne. All three were part of the Memorial Day Parade Committee, along with five other veterans’ organizations in the hamlet.

According to the program, the honored guests were Pearl Harbor survivor widows Elivia Abeles, Betty Dubrul and their families, along with Gold Star Mother Jacqueline Kolm, whose son Kevin was killed in Iraq.

The In Memoriam roll included George Lang of VFW Post 3211, Medal of Honor recipient, Army veteran of Vietnam; Gold Star Mother Margaret Stolz; and Pearl Harbor survivors Michael Montelione and Richard Abeles.

The parade grand marshal was Joseph Messana, past commander of Catholic War Veterans Joseph Barry Post 1946. The post was disbanded after the 2015 ceremony.

The VFW Poppy Queen, Marlo Sophia Knox, reacts during the ceremony.

Following an opening prayer by Reverend Emily Truboy-Weller of St. Stephan’s Lutheran Church, Samantha Brown sang the National Anthem, backed by the Hicksville High School and Middle School bands.

Reverend James Stachacz of St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church gave the Invocation, followed by Thomas Basacchi, past commander of the American Legion Charies Wagner Post 421, who read the Grand Army of the Republic General Order No. 11 of 1868. In it, soldiers are encouraged to decorate the graves of the Civil War fallen, a tradition which led to Decoration Day, precursor to Memorial Day.

Hayne then introduced the speakers.

Lisa Ryan, president of Blue Star Mothers, Mothers of Military of New York, Chapter 12 explained that Blue Star mothers have sons or daughters serving in the military.

“Today we honor to Gold Star mothers,” Ryan said. “If you walk past their house and you a decal with a red border, white background and gold star, stop and ask the family about that star. If we say [the fallen’s] names, they are never forgotten. Our chapter has many children that are currently deployed. So keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.”

Assemblyman Michael Montesano, at right, applauds during the ceremony. He represents most of Hicksville.

Gregory Fallon, commander of the American Legion Charles Wagner Post 421 commented, “Unlike past wars the end of the war on terror will not be signed aboard a battleship or a diplomatic conference room. While wars today may be less defined, one fact is crystal clear—our forces are defending us and it’s up to us to remember their sacrifices. Long after the battle field guns have been silenced and the bomb stop exploding, the children of our warriors will still be missing a parent, spouses will be without a life partner, and parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters who died way too early. We need to be there for them.”

VFW Poppy Queen, Marlo Sophia Knox poses with VFW Commander Bill Walden before the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Bill Walden)

Veterans of Foreign Wars William M. Gouse Jr. Post #3211 Commander Bill Walden thanked Hayne, 93, for his emceeing efforts. He noted that he graduated from Hicksville High School (then based at the current middle school) in 1965 and the auditorium looked as he remembered it.

“Memorial Day is the day we recognize, honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in defense of our country,” Walden said. “We also remember those who served but are not longer with us. Most importantly, let us remember the families of the fallen servicemen and servicewomen that have suffered and continue to suffer today from the loss of their loved ones. Let us never forget them. God bless you, God bless Hicksville, God bless the USA. Semper fidelis.”

Marine Corps shouts of “ooh-rah” we’re mixed with the applause.

Walden also accompanied the VFW Poppy Queen, Marlo Sophia Knox.

Stepping up to the podium next was Chris Parouse, commander of British War Veterans of America. He took at his theme the well known expression “Freedom Is Not Free.” “So I went and looked up total number of dead from America’s wars: 1.2 million, plus another 3.2 million. So yes, freedom is not free. Our liberty has paid a price and we’re still paying a price today. I would like to close with the quote from JFK from his inaugural address: ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’ ”

Robert Chiappone, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Long Island Chapter 417 urged those in attendance to “Please remember our fallen heroes and teach our children of today about the meaning of Memorial Day. God bless our troops in harm’s way, and most of all, God bless America.”

“I look around can I see the kids here today and that’s a beautiful sight,” said Steve Bonom, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Nassau County Chapter 82. “I want you all to remember that we have our todays because of the men who gave their tomorrows.”

Hicksville Schools Superintendent Carl Bonuso, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, pronounced himself “a proud citizen of this great country. That pledge and that flag means so much (he recited the Pledge of Allegiance). That pledge is so much more than mere words.”

He called the United States a nation whose greatness was built on sacrifice.

“My favorite corner of this great country is a little place that embodies the spirit and principles on which this country is based on,” Bonuso went on.” It’s a little place, and it’s called Hicksville. A place filled with tall trees, trees of different shapes and colors, and sent to us from different places, just like its people. Strong trees and people that can handle any storm, natural or man-made. As I look up to those stars in our heaven, I know that we have angelic warriors looking down, saying ‘Thank you for remembering me.’ ”

Veterans faithfully attend the ceremony to remember their fallen comrades.

Assemblyman Michael Montesano asked the crowd to contemplate those lost from Hicksville—what contributions they would have made, the children they would have had.

“We have to pause and give thanks to those we lost here in Hicksville, our community loss, by not having those servicemembers return,” Montesano concluded.

“I look at the young people, and I thank them for being here,” said Nassau County Legislator Rose Marie Walker. “And I thank their parents for making sure they are here today because it’s you who will have to pass along to future generations, and tell them what this day means in our history. How amazing people were in our country, to leave their homes and to fight for people they don’t even know, to make sure that we would have the greatest country in the world.”

Walker mentioned Hicksville VFW Past Post Commander (1982-1983) Conrad Steers, who passed away in December 2016. She also named Marine Cpl. Kevin Kolm, a Hicksville High School graduate who was killed in Iraq in April 2004. Walker had visited Kolm’s grave and came across a letter left there by a young person from Hicksville and it spoke about “how thankful he was to Kevin, and that he remembered Kevin all the time and would especially remember him this day.”

Assemblyman Chuck Lavine was the principal speaker and noted that colleague Mike Montesano represents a large part of the hamlet, “but I have enough of Hicksville to feel at home here. How wonderful it is to be here in this wonderful community, an All-American community. What comes to mind to me on this day—and I’m going to make this personal, and it should be personal.”

He told the story of William Kier, his mother’s first cousin. He convinced his parents, when he was 17, to sign him up for the army. He was stationed in the Philippines and had just turned 18 in May 1945 when he lost his life.

“His loss here was so heavy, that no one in the family could speak about it again, but this is what sacrifice is all about,” Lavine said.

He singled out the Vietnam War veterans in the crowd and noted that they were not treated well when they came back from that conflict.

“We know today that we have servicemembers fighting in the Middle East—some of these conflicts are not usually popular among the American public,” he stated. “And that is fine. We know we Americans have freedoms few other countries have, and we have the freedom to speak up and agree and disagree with American policy.”

He concluded, “But no servicemember today comes back from any conflict and is met with the degree of anger and suspicion and criticism that the Vietnam vets were met. Let’s remember that everyone comes home honored, and to Vietnam vets, a special thanks.”

Alaha Nasari of Hicksville High School represented New York State at the VFW National Convention and was a finalist in the VFW “Voice of Democracy” essay contest.

The students speakers from the Hicksville district were Alaha Nasari and Vimanpreet Singh. Walden introduced the former and related that she represented New York State at the VFW National Convention and was a finalist in the VFW “Voice of Democracy” essay contest.

Nasari said, “To those citizens who died preserving peace and freedom, who served in conflicts to protect our land, and sacrificed their dreams to serve the hopes of our nation, we owe our utmost honor and respect. It is important, not only to honor their service, but to admire their devotion to duty and to ensure the purpose to which they fought never be forgotten.”

She concluded, “Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride which burns across this nation today and every day.”

Vimanpreet Singh of Hicksville High School spoke of the importance of Memorial Day.

Joining those on the stage was Joann Dutko, president of the VFW Post 3211 Auxiliary.

The benediction was given by Reverend Dr. Marjorie Nunes of the Hicksville United Methodist Church, after which the Vietnam Veterans of America trio of President Steve Bonom, Tony Sparaco and Bob Rydell fired their guns in a salute.

Hunter Hsui and Esmiery Ventura played “Taps” and then Reverend Todd Bishop of Church Unleashed gave the closing prayer.

From left: Emcee Jack Hayne, Bill Torres, Steve Ellis (American Legion), Barbara Torres, Assemblyman Michael Montesano, Hicksville Schools Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, Grand Marshall Joe Messana, VFW Commander Bill Walden, Nassau County Legislator Rose Walker, and Hicksville Schools Supervisor Social Studies, Home & Careers Dr. Rose Broda. (Photo courtesy of Bill Walden)

The assembly filed out to the strains of “America the Beautiful.”

Esmiery Ventura played “Taps” to remember the fallen.


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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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