Irving Goodman of Huntington still tears up when speaking about his experience serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Goodman, who was drafted at 17, said he saw a massive graveyard after landing on Omaha Beach days after June 6, 1944 — D-Day, when Allied forces fought German troops on the beaches of Normandy in France.
“That got to me,” said Goodman, a great-grandfather of 16, thinking of the lives lost. “I couldn’t stop crying.”
The 95-year-old veteran was one of more than 200 people who gathered Sunday morning on the front lawn of the newly renovated town Veterans Plaza to commemorate those killed in active service.
“We, the residents of Huntington, honor and thank all of the men and women who sacrificed all of their tomorrows, their hopes, prayers and dreams in all of our nation's wars so that we, our children and our grandchildren may live in peace and safety,” Vietnam veteran Paul Kelly said during the annual Memorial Day wreath ceremony.
Huntington Town Councilwoman Joan Cergol asked those gathered to consider doing small things to commemorate the memories, such as pulling out an old photo to tell a child about the sacrifice of a family member or a friend, or bringing a youngster to the plaza to explain to them what the names on the monuments mean.
“We can do it. One small gesture at a time,” Cergol said. “The families of those who had been lost ask us but one simple thing: to never forget their loved ones' sacrifice. That sacrifice is their legacy.”
Constance Mangano of Greenlawn became emotional when laying the wreath for the fallen on Sunday. Mangano said she lost her son, Anthony Mangano, in 2008 when he was killed in Afghanistan after the vehicle he was in encountered an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. He was 36.
While time has not made the memory easier, she has learned to live with it, Mangano said.
“Like this weekend, it’s a sad reminder,” Mangano said. “But I know he wouldn’t want things to stop. He’d want our lives to go forward.”
The Huntington General Services and Engineering departments spent the past month renovating the plaza, using a $60,000 state grant for the town's Veterans Affairs Division of the Department of Human Services.