Lest we forget.
Despite the novel coronavirus causing the cancellation of the 153rd Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade and post-parade memorial service in John Paul Jones Park, Bay Ridge played host to a Memorial Day caravan and wreath-laying ceremony.
The event was hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 72.
The cars mustered at 10:30 a.m. at 86th Street between Colonial Road and Ridge Boulevard.
The parade kicked off at 11 a.m., turning right/south on Third Avenue, left/east on 91st Street, right/south on Fifth Avenue, left/east on 92nd Street, and right/south on Seventh Avenue at Poly Place.
The event concluded at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center, where tributes were paid to the fallen.
“Our Memorial Day caravan and wreath-laying ceremony was a very successful and meaningful event,” said President of VVA Chapter 72 Danny Friedman. “We had over 30 vehicles participate. It seemed to me that after 152 consecutive years of Brooklyn honoring our fallen heroes, it wouldn’t be right to just sit back and go online to pay a tribute. Especially during these trying times, it was important to make a statement that Brooklyn will never forget those of us who gave it all so that we could be here today. And because of these trying times, it was dually important to end our caravan and have our ceremony at the Brooklyn VA Hospital to pay homage to our veterans lost to this pandemic as well as those brave and dedicated health workers fighting to save every life they can.”
Ray Aalbue, chairman and executive director of the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade, discussed the importance of holding a ceremony despite the cancellation of the oldest Memorial Day parade, which has been held since 1867.
“Thanks to Danny Friedman and the Vietnam Veterans from Thomas Coughlin Chapter 72, we kept the tradition alive and participated in Brooklyn’s 153rd Memorial Day Parade,” he wrote via Facebook. “We didn’t march the route; we drove the route along 3rd Ave. Then we made our way over to Brooklyn’s VA hospital on Poly Place and held a wreath-laying ceremony honoring all those who died in selfless service to our country, our hospitalized brothers and sisters and the VA doctors, nurses and police. Thanks to Barry Berger for playing Taps and Tom Haggerty from Clann Eireann Pipes and Drums for providing us with bagpipes. Connie Ranocchia, president of the United Military Veterans of Kings County, carried the unit’s flag and Cary Spickler [captured] the ceremony on tape.”
Elected officials also chimed in on the touching ceremony.
”It was great to see that, despite this pandemic and a statewide ban on parades, a group of patriots came out to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. “It is with deep gratitude that we honor, remember and pay tribute to the men and women who paid the highest price for our nation, its liberties and the freedoms we enjoy. I appreciate the veterans coming together to keep this Memorial Day tradition alive.”
“We are so lucky to have this tremendous tradition take place in our backyard,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan, who was slated to be a grand marshal for this year’s parade. “Canceling the oldest, continuously run Memorial Day Parade in the nation was simply not an option. The parade organizers got creative and instead decided to do an old-school motorcade. And it was perfect. Memorial Day may have looked different this year, but our thoughts remained the same. May we never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
“This event, meaningful in any year, was especially so in the difficult times we are in,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “I was proud to join this car parade to honor and remember those who gave what President Lincoln called ‘The last full measure of devotion’ in service of their country.”
“While this wasn’t a Memorial Day like we’re all used to, it was incredible to see our community come together under these circumstances to honor all our lost service members,” added U.S. Rep. Max Rose.