The dirgeful cadence of taps filled the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage at the 11th hour Sunday morning, 100 years after the guns fell silent on Europe’s western front.
Standing amid the barrels of tanks and draped flags, the bugler lowered his instrument. The assembled crowd of about 200 people then shared a moment of silence in a Veterans Day remembrance of those who served and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice — from Belleau to Bagram.
Armistice Day, which commemorates the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, has become Veterans Day, to honor servicemen and -women who have served during the nation’s wars since then.
“It’s a very important day,” said Joseph Koloski, 70, a retired insurance auditor who attended the event Sunday. “Everybody who served sacrificed a lot. … We have our freedom because of the people who lost their lives and the people who served.”
Koloski said the country’s attitude toward veterans has changed since he faced ridicule when he returned from the Vietnam War, where he served in the military police.
Today strangers often thank servicemen in uniform for their service to the country.
“We didn’t get that,” he said. “It’s changed for the better.”
“Whenever I see a Vietnam veteran, I always say ‘Welcome home, brother,’ ” Koloski said.
The museum’s founder and president, Lawrence Kadish, told the crowd that the mission of the institution was “not about glorifying war, but honoring our citizen soldiers, those who have defended us from the enemies of freedom, liberty, diversity and peace.”
Kadish said he was too young to fight in World War II, but he learned lessons about the importance of fighting on the streets of Brooklyn where he grew up.
“If they feel you're weak, they'll attack you,” Kadish said. “So we have to support our military. … That's the best deterrent against aggressive nations.”
The names of more than five dozen Long Islanders who lost their lives in combat in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were read during the ceremony. The museum also awarded scholarships to local Girl Scouts for essays they wrote about veterans. Catherine Pizzardi, 11, of Mineola won first prize, a $5,000 scholarship for an essay she wrote based on interviews with veterans of World War II and Vietnam.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told the crowd she had just returned from Berlin, where she participated in commemorations of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a night of widespread violence against Jews in Nazi Germany that Curran said marked the beginning of the Holocaust.
“It just reminded me how important it is to defend democracy, to defend freedom of religion, to defend free press, everything that we take for granted,” Curran said.