Vietnam veteran John Digilio, 67, remembers attending the annual Bay Shore-Brightwaters Memorial Day parade throughout his childhood to honor his father, a World War II veteran.
Now a veteran himself, Digilio helps organize the event as a member of the American Legion Post 365. Monday’s parade was its 94th.
“Nothing would stop us from doing this,” Digilio said, noting that even difficult economic times would not be enough to stop the community from marching down Main Street to remember the fallen.
The significance of the holiday, Digilio said, is the opportunity “to remember those who died in battle ensuring that our freedoms that we have, and so richly enjoy, are preserved.”
Digilio, who grew up in Bay Shore, served in the army for 30 years and is now a retired Vietnam War veteran.
“We all know someone who has died in battle, be they a fellow soldier, relative, or neighbor,” he said. “And today is the day we remember them, and think about the sacrifices that they made.”
Many of the dozens who attended the parade have their own personal connection to the holiday, as they support family members who have served in the armed forces.
“It means being thankful for being an American and for all the military that protect us and our freedoms,” said Karen Sobel, 66, of East Islip.
She attended the parade with her husband Alan Sobel, 68, who served in the National Guard during the 1960s, their son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
For Alan Sobel, the parade holds a slightly different significance than it does for the rest of the family. The son of a World War II veteran, he grew up in Bay Shore and says he’s seen probably every Memorial Day parade in the town since 1948.
“I always admired the fact that, especially the veterans from World War II around here, always seemed to have a connection with one another,” said Alan Sobel. “Even if they weren’t best of friends, they all seemed to have some connection to each other.”