After the parade was expanded for the first time last year, it is still continuing to grow in 2016.
Tom Long, commander of American Legion Post 1424 on Metropolitan Avenue, said the parade was an opportunity to say “thank you for veterans of the past who have served, the veterans who do not come home and the people who serve now.”
Roland Meier, former president of the West Side Tennis Club, echoed his sentiments, adding that the parade, in addition to concerts, restaurants and shopping, has placed Forest Hills on the map.
The neighborhood has been become an integral part of Queens as a top local tourist destination, with more than 100,000 people visiting the area each year.
Sponsors for the May 29th parade along Metropolitan Avenue includes TD Bank, American Legion, West Side Tennis Club, Maspeth Federal Savings, Forest Hills Kiwanis Club, Queens Chamber of Commerce, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Karen Koslowtiz and more.
The financial support from the American Legion, Kiwanis Club and forward-thinking local businesses will go towards the $15,000 price tag for the parade.
This year’s grand marshals, Detective Gigi Redzematovic of the 112th Precinct and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sullivan, both attended the corporate kick-off party last Thursday.
Redzematovic, who has been with the 112th Precinct for 18 years and the Community Affairs Bureau for 13, said she will find the festivities a change from her usual duties at the parade.
Working with other officers, she normally sets up barriers, yields phone calls, and assists with bus routes and traffic, among other roles.
“I could now go, look beautiful and do one of these waves,” she joked. “It’s really an honor. Everyone touches my heart and I can’t wait to celebrate the veterans as well as the community.”
Sullivan, commander of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Fort Totten in Bayside, served in Iraq and Kuwait between 2007 and 2015. Last November, he returned from a tour in Afghanistan.
“As many times as I’ve gone and with the different experiences, it’s taken a while to adjust,” Sullivan said. “When things like [being named the grand marshal] happen, it lets my family see that our work is being appreciated, and that the American soldier will go as far as the American public wants us to go."
Community Board 6 chair Joseph Hennessy was one of three grand marshals in the parade two years ago. Serving in Germany from 1959 to 1961, notably alongside the iconic Elvis Presley, Hennessy spoke about the honor of being a grand marshal on the day of the event.
"That morning when they put the sash on you, something happens to you, you can’t explain it but what pride to feel that,” Hennessy said.
He said the parades across the city are also so important to veterans.
“I go to the Department of Veterans Affairs on 23rd Street, and it’s amazing to see veterans in wheelchairs and other conditions who are trying to survive every single day,” he said. "Can we not take one day, parade down an avenue and support them? A prayer and a parade is what they need.”