Sea Cliff resident Raymond Pierce, 84, started singing “God Bless America,” and within a few seconds the veterans of James F. Brengel American Legion Post 456 had joined in.
Members of Post 456 came out on a sunny, but brisk, Friday morning to assemble by the World War I memorial in Clifton Park for a Veterans Day ceremony. Clifton Park’s large stone memorial holds a plaque engraved with the names of Sea Cliff members who fought in WWI and stands before a row of eight oak trees, planted in 1919 in dedication to the eight Sea Cliff residents who lost their lives during the war.
“It’s the first time I heard about the eight oak trees; it was very significant,” said Charles Bell, 93, the oldest veteran in Post 456, who found out about the trees via remarks by Post 456 Cmdr. Phil Como. Bell served in World War II from 1941 to 1945 as a chief pharmacist. After the war, he owned a pharmacy in Glen Cove for 35 years.
The event started with a group picture with Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy and was followed by a prayer. Como gave the history of the WWI memorial, and the mayor shared a few words to express his gratitude to the veterans for their service.
“It’s just another reason Sea Cliff is so special,” said Kennedy after the ceremony, “We set aside time to honor our veterans in an appropriate fashion.”
After Pierce belted the last note, Como wrapped up the ceremony and veterans, along with their families, gathered at Village Hall for lunch.
“I’m glad about this [recognition],” said 59-year-old Karl Hansen, a Vietnam War veteran. “There’s a whole different attitude and a lot more support than back then.”
Photo: Members of Sea Cliff American Legion, Post 456. pose for a photo by the World War I memorial in Clifton Park during a Veterans Day ceremony. (Nov. 11, 2011)