Hundreds of thousands of military veterans were honored during a rainy Memorial Day weekend ceremony at the Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn, on Sunday.
“Today as we pay tribute to those who have gone to their rest, I am reminded of the true meaning of Memorial Day,” Andy Booth, president of the Long Island National Cemetery Memorial Organization Inc., said in front of the roughly 200 people who attended. “We remember that the sacrifice of our true American heroes, our military, is the reason we enjoy so many freedoms in our great country.”
There are about 350,000 graves at the military cemetery, some of which include the relatives of those who served.
As attendees sat under tents to shield themselves from the rain, a handful of local Veterans of Foreign Wars groups marched in solidarity, “God Bless America” was sung, and a firing detail honored soldiers.
“These hallowed grounds now are a final resting place for those who served their country in the Civil War and every conflict since,” Srey M. Austin, cemetery director, said during the 45-minute program.
Referring to pennants that had been placed beside soldiers’ graves, Austin said, “The flag represents the visit on the doorstep nobody wants to get.”
Peter Shelby, the assistant secretary for the Office of Human Resources & Administration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was the guest speaker.
So many veterans “paid the ultimate tribute to this country to protect everything that we hold dear,” Shelby said. “We will always remember them.”
Veteran Robert Lane, 64, of Massapequa Park, served in the Army in 1972 and was stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey. He attended Sunday’s ceremony.
“It’s about all the ones who gave their lives,” he said. He added that those who serve in the military now and in the future are just as important.
For surviving veterans, Booth said there’s more work that needs to be done.
“Our services to our country did not end when we were discharged from the military. It was the beginning of a lifetime of championing the causes that face our returning members,” Booth said.