U.S. Army Air Corps veteran James Carbone carefully hoisted the American flag to the top of the pole outside of his home at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University while a bugle played taps.
The 94-year-old Bronx native, who spent more than three years in the Pacific theater during World War II helping transport wounded soldiers from the front lines, continued to salute the flag as the cameras snapped frenetically.
It will be the start of a long journey for the Stars and Stripes in the coming days. That same flag will travel across Suffolk to a pair of national cemeteries, a local grade school and finally to Normandy on June 6 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, considered the turning point in the war.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it was only fitting that the flag flew first outside the State Veterans Home, where more than 90 World War II vets reside.
"It is so important that we pass on the lessons of what you have done to our kids and to future generations," Bellone said during a Memorial Day ceremony Friday attended by more than 150 veterans. "You are part of this incredibly proud tradition of service to our nation that goes back more than 200 years."
The flag, Bellone said, will return and eventually be placed on permanent display in Suffolk and raised every June 6 outside of the county office buildings in Hauppauge.
Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, said too many Americans treat Memorial Day as just another day off from school, an opportunity to break out the backyard barbecue or to get a great sale at the mall.
"But every last Monday in May should be spent reflecting about the men and women who so bravely risked life and limb in the face of great danger," Sganga said. "We need to remember those who left the comforts of home to fight for us and our freedom but never returned."
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said America was the greatest nation on Earth because of the bravery exhibited by the country's veterans.
"Your legacy, your memory is one that is going to be honored with respect and admiration 100 and 200 plus years from now," Zeldin said.