I.S. 259 students remember the fallen on Memorial Day during annual ceremony

A local school again paused to remember the country’s fallen heroes.

I.S. 259 William McKinley, 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway, held its annual Memorial Day tribute on Tuesday, May 23, featuring patriotic students reciting touching poems for soldiers that lost their lives fighting for their country’s freedom, performances from the school’s marching band and concert string orchestra, and appearances by veterans, elected officials and community leaders.

The event’s organizer Jessica Amato was proud of both her students and the community. “I am always amazed at the great support we get as we interact with everyone in the community and engage in one room to teach our students and all of us the importance of Memorial Day and why we shouldn’t take our freedoms for granted,” she said. “I always learn something new from my students when we put together programs like this.”

“For many of us, Memorial Day represents the beginning of the summer season,” added Principal Janice Geary. “Many of us have barbecues, stay outside and go on vacation. However, none of these activities would be possible without our veterans who served and gave their lives to this country so we can be free and enjoy those simple pleasures.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile, a McKinley alumni, was also in attendance. “It’s a pleasure to be here as Memorial Day is a day we celebrate each and every year,” he said. “This year for me it’s a little special because I’m one of the deputy grand marshals for the parade.”

He also discussed the importance of the day. “If you pick up a newspaper and read about what’s going on in the world, you realize what freedoms we have and how we fought to get those freedoms and that many people gave their lives so we can get them,” he said. “Each and every year, this school takes time out to mark Memorial Day and as a graduate of McKinley, I appreciate you remembering this day.”

“We’re here to remember those that fought for our freedom that didn’t come back and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fran Vella-Marrone, who represented Congressmember Dan Donovan. “These were people that went off and gave their life for people they didn’t know or ever meet, like you and me. They died for us.”

Memorial Day is to honor those who have died for us,” added John Quaglione, representing State Senator Marty Golden. “They have definitely inspired all of us to come together this morning and remember all of those that have fallen and continue to inspire our nation and our people.”

Veterans also spoke to the kids, which led to an emotional portion of the program during which students named a soldier from each state who had died in the line of duty. 

As we hear those names, it’s easy to think of them as long lost heroes, ghosts and people we can’t relate to,” said Max Rose, who served in Afghanistan as an infantry officer. “But I served with people not much older than you and it’s important to realize that they were and are human. They make mistakes, they’re afraid. But they’re courageous not just because of what they did but what they didn’t do. The times they didn’t shoot. Civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq are alive because of the courageous restraint they showed. Every day I think of the friends I served with. We thank them for their service today.”

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