Dozens of veterans, hundreds of student musicians and other supporters poured onto the street in Syosset on Monday morning, waving at children and their parents who waited along Jackson Avenue, cheering for the Syosset Memorial Day parade.
Mothers adjusted their children's band uniforms and tried to get them to pose for group photos, yelling "Don't move!" as the squirming youngsters struggled to comply.
The 35 veterans, some nearly 100 years old, others not yet 30, gathered at the head of the parade, some in uniform, to lead the march that ended at a small memorial near the Syosset train station.
Midio Bevelaqua, 92, originally from Park Slope, Brooklyn, said he was heartened to see so many young people attend the parade.
But despite the revelry, Monday's celebration reminded him of a far darker time.
A former member of the Eighth Army Air Force, Bevelaqua, now of Syosset, worked as a cook while he was stationed in England during World War II, but that did not insulate him from the toll on his fellow soldiers.
"It brings back a lot of memories and hardships," he said. "It hurts because there were so darn many casualties of all different descriptions. We were youngsters. Being away from home for the first time was a big deal. I spent my 19th birthday on a troop convoy."
Though it was a big day for the veterans at the parade, it was a big day for Tyler Altarac, too. The 15-year-old student at H.B. Thompson Middle School stepped out in front of a crowd to do what he loves best -- play drums.
Altarac has pervasive developmental disorder and is on the autism spectrum. But that hasn't stopped him from performing literally center stage in his middle school band. His teacher has chosen him time after time to take the lead, and while his role in the parade was a supportive one, he was no less excited.
"I like performing," he said shortly before his teacher Jim Malanowski slipped a strap over his head so that he could bang away on command.
The boy's mother said he smiles ear to ear every time he plays.
"That's what he loves," she said, in between fixing his shirt and taking his picture.
The annual Syosset parade was jointly sponsored by The American Legion Post 175 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6394.