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May 21, 2008

Parades And Flags For The Fallen



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On the East End, Memorial Day weekend has a special significance. Second homeowners arrive for their summer of fun. Contractors, landscapers, housecleaners and pool technicians take a breath after weeks of scrambling to make houses ready for summer people. Hoteliers, shopkeepers and restaurateurs brace for the onslaught of another busy season.

But Memorial Day means much more than simply getting ready for fun or a seasonal workload. Here are a few tidbits about the history of this solemn holiday.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, because it was the day people paid homage to soldiers who had died serving the country. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1873, New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day. In fact, while many cities and towns claimed bragging rights as the birthplace of Decoration Day, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, New York its official birthplace in 1966. The National Holiday Act of 1971 set the date for Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. Opponents have argued that changing the date to create a three-day weekend undermines the spirit of the holiday.

According to the website usmemorialday.org, since the late '50s some 1200 soldiers from the 3rd US Infantry place flags at each of the over 260,000 gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday before Memorial Day. They patrol 24 hours a day through the weekend to make sure the flags continue to stand. Also in the '50s, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts began the tradition of placing flags at their local cemeteries.

In 2000, Congress adopted a "National Moment of Remembrance" in an effort to raise awareness of the true meaning of Memorial Day. It asks citizens to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifice of fallen service men, have a moment of silence, or listen to "Taps."

This coming weekend, a variety of localities and organizations plan parades and services to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Below, a listing:

In East Hampton, the Everit Albert Herter Post No. 550 Veterans of Foreign Wars will host the annual Memorial Day parade and service. It begins at 9 a.m. at Main Beach, where a wreath will be cast into the ocean to commemorate those service personnel who are resting in the sea. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m., with a service on the green at its conclusion. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Daughters of the American Revolution will present various awards. Lieutenant Colonel Julian D. Alford USMC, the commanding officer of the Third Battalion Sixth Marines during its deployment to Afghanistan in 2004, and Iraq in 2005 and 2006, will be the special speaker at the service.

In Sag Harbor, the Chelbert & Battle American Legion Post 388 of Sag Harbor, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 of Sag Harbor and several other community organizations have organized a parade and remembrance ceremonies to honor the fallen next Monday. The Sag Harbor Community Band will kick off the day with a performance at 9 a.m. in front of the Sag Harbor Cinema on Main Street. The parade will also commence at 9 at the War monument at Otter Pond and travel down Main Street, over to Bay Street. Ceremonies will follow at the flagpole at Marine Park and conclude on the front lawn of the American Legion Building on Bay Street.

In North Haven, the memorial observances will begin at 11:30 a.m. at North Haven Village Hall on Ferry Road. The American Legion Firing Squad will be present, along with North Haven Village officials and a guest speaker. Refreshments will be served after the ceremony.

Farther west, in the Village of Southampton, a Memorial Day parade organized by the Veterans Association will kick off at 10:45 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The parade will head down Jobs Lane to Agawam Park, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Following the parade, refreshments will be served at the Veterans Hall on Pond Lane.

In Hampton Bays, a parade sponsored by the Hand Aldrich Post 924 American Legion will begin at 10 a.m. at St. Rosalie's Church and head to Good Ground Cemetery in Hampton Bays, where a memorial will be held.

And, this is the first-ever year for a new veterans' memorial park in Hampton Bays, located directly in front of the Hand Aldrich Post 924 American Legion post on Ponquogue Avenue. The memorial will serve as a place for residents to pay respects to fallen soldiers. The memorial features a star with five points representing all branches of the Armed Forces, a granite wall and a perpetual flame, with benches for residents to sit.

Memorial Day will be celebrated on the North Fork in a number of locations:

In Riverhead, spectators can line up on Memorial Day to view an annual parade, beginning at 9 a.m. on Pulaski Street. The parade route continues down Osborne Avenue and makes a right onto Court Street, where a ceremony is held outside the Riverhead Free Library at the eternal flame. From there, festivities head to Main Street and up Roanoke Avenue, finishing at St. Isidore's R.C. Church, where tribute is paid to veterans.

In Mattituck, the annual Memorial Day parade begins at 10 a.m. and follows Route 25.

And in Greenport, a parade of Boy and Girl Scouts begins at 8 a.m. on Memorial Day and proceeds from Adams Street to the railroad dock.

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