“I love the parade in Forest Hills because it’s a very hometown kind of parade,” State Senator Joe Addabbo said. “It’s also a show of affection for our veterans, and that’s why I appreciate it."
Public Advocate Letitia James echoed Addabbo, adding that the day is so much more than a parade. In her own neighborhood, there is an elderly veteran who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
James and her community have rallied around him by taking care of him and doing little things such as bringing him food. This is what Memorial Day is all about, she said.
"This is for the veterans who have gone on and made the sacrifices so that all of us are free,” James said. “That’s what’s so great about Memorial weekend, it’s a time for us all to take time out of our busy schedules and salute those who have served.”
Grand marshal Gigi Redzemtovic was left speechless with the crowd’s turnout and support as she walked alongside her co-grand marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sullivan, and Tom Long, commander of American Legion Post 1424.
This year’s parade participants included the Phoenix House, the Forest Hills/Rego Park Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Forest Hills Community Association, Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Girl and Boy Scouts, Community House School, P.S. 101, and the Star of the Sea Cadets Corps.
Sensai Chris Iavarone, the owner of Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts in Glendale, has been marching in the parade with dozens of students since 2009.
“As we prepare for the parade, we also talk about the significance of Memorial Day,” Iavarone said. “We have a lot of people who have family members in the military or are police officers who bring their kids, and we’re marching for them.”
The Forest Hills Asian Association (FHAA) also marched in this year’s parade.
Lu, an active member of the military who recently returned from Guam, wanted to participate with the FHAA in order to increase awareness of Asian-Americans in the military. In fact, he initially joined the military as a means to learn English.
“All of my friends were Chinese so I didn’t have an opportunity to practice English and I need to be an environment where I have to speak it all day, everyday to learn it,” he said. “While communication was difficult and rough at first, for four years a lot of the guys helped me and I had to pick up a lot on my own, but it worked out and I’m proud to be an Asian-American member of the military."
While crowds gathered along either side of Metropolitan Avenue, local businesses supported the event by offering free food and drinks to those in attendance.
Staff from Tazzina offered fresh squeezed lemonade and hot dogs. Parade sponsor, Nick’s Bistro handed out Greek cookies and lemon-infused water for those looking to beat the heat.
They also gave the crowd black bracelets in support of the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that offers numerous services to veterans wounded in the line of duty.
“It’s our first year participating and we plan on continuing the support for years to come,” said Alfred Vitsentzos, co-owner of Nick’s Bistro. “A lot of our customers are veterans and they support us, so we want to give back as much as we can to the community.”