The names of 240 veterans joined more than 9,000 others on the Walls of Honor veterans memorial in East Meadow's Eisenhower Park Saturday.
"I want my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, to be able to honor the country and understand the sacrifice veterans have made for our freedom," said John Bergersen, 78, of Farmingdale, who added his, his son's and his grandson's names to the wall.
More than 500 people crowded the bricks at the park's Veterans Plaza for a ceremony hosted by the Nassau County Veterans Monument Fund Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization that builds and maintains Walls of Honor. The group has at least three other memorials in the plaza, commemorating the Korean War, the Vietnam War and prisoners of war.
"The one single thing that we must remember and we must pass on to the next generation is: Freedom is not free," County Executive Edward Mangano said. He added the name of his uncle Edward J. Mangano to the wall.
"It's not free today. It wasn't free yesterday. And there's no outlook, that it will be free in the future."The ceremony featured tap dances by the New York Senior America Seasoned Steppers and an address by Nicholas Graziano, chairman of the Nassau County Veterans Monument Fund Inc.
The war in "Vietnam was not very popular," said Maria DiFede, 63, of Bethpage, who added the name of her husband, Richard, 67, to the monument. "Men didn't get their just reward at the time, and that's why we're here now."
The memorial has eight rows of hip-high granite stones surrounded by flowers and American flags. The living or dead veterans honored there served in peacetime or wartime at home or abroad, Graziano said.
"It's something my family can remember me by," said Ray Curran, 86, of Wantagh, who served in the Army and whose name was added to the wall this year. Laughing, he said, "At least I'll have my name on something besides a tombstone."Veterans' names may be added through the Nassau County Veterans Monument Fund Inc. with proof of military service and a $100 fee, which funds the engraving process and other monuments the organization sponsors, Graziano said. The group is planning a memorial archway for the plaza.
"[The memorial] represents the legacy of veterans who served -- living or dead," Graziano said. "It's a legacy to the blood they spilled for this country."