2000-06-03 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

An Opportunity To Remember: Memorial Day 2000

On Monday, May 29, 2000, we marched in the Memorial Day Parades in Rockaway and Howard Beach.

Congratulations to Jack Domfort and Michael Honan, who served as the grand marshal in the Rockaway parade. Jack and Michael are honorable and patriotic citizens who have served their community and their country.

The day began with a mass at St. Frances de Sales Church. Monsignor
Martin Gerraghty celebrated the Mass. Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey, member of the New York State Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, served as the lector at the mass. After mass the parade assembled outside of St. Francis de Sales for a memorial service. It proceeded eastward to the Veterans War Memorial and on to the Doughboy and Woman War Veterans Monument for a memorial service.

Many dignitaries offered remarks. Monsignor William Burke gave the
opening benediction. He remembered those who had sacrificed their lives in
order to maintain our future as a country.

Jack Domfort conducted the entire ceremony. He did an outstanding job. Mike Honan thanked Jack Domfort for the honor of being a grand marshal. He asked us to remember those who served our country on our
behalf. He noted that many people at the service personally knew those who did not return. It is his sincere hope that the youngsters of today will
never know the ravages of war.

Arthur Fleishman, the commander of the Jewish War Veterans, addressed his fellow veterans, guests and dignitaries who had joined ranks to commemorate this special day. He noted that as a Jewish War Veteran (JWV), he was representing the oldest active veterans organization in the USA. The JWV was founded on March 15, 1896. The preamble
for the JWV notes that their purpose is to maintain true allegiance to the
United States of America in order to foster and perpetuate true Americanism.

As an organization JWV is committed to combating anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry of all kinds. Arthur Fleishman reminded us that Memorial Day stems from the American Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day. Arthur Fleishman continued to note that this terrible war found father fighting son, brothers fighting each other and blue fighting gray in deathly conflict. Fleishman noted that there were more people killed in the Civil War than in World War II.

Jerry Klein, a veteran of World War II and an officer of our American
Legion Post, gave the main memorial speech of the ceremony. He noted that he was honored to speak to America’s sons and daughters and to those who answered their country’s call to service. He said that on Memorial Day we set aside time to say thank you, God bless you, we miss you and we will never forget
you. He pointed to the fact that Memorial Day began in May, 1868, when General Logan, who was the commander - in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30th as Decoration Day. His order required that the graves of the war dead be honored with beautiful spring flowers and that people renew their pledge to our flag which had been saved by those who gave
their lives. The first Decoration Day Ceremony was at Arlington National
Cemetery and was attended by General James Garfield who would subsequently be elected to be the 20th President of the United States. In 1982 Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day in order to pay homage and remember all those who had given their lives in any combat engaged in by our country. Jerry
Klein reminded us that in 1971 Congress expanded the concept to include
honoring every military person who had given his/her life in service to our
country. Congress specified the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.

Jerry Klein elaborated further by noting that this first Memorial Day of
the new millennium brings with it a certain objective truth. He finds that we are living in a relatively peaceful time with a prolonged strong economic period. He reminds us that this could cause us to forget but it is our duty to remember the sacrifices of the past in order to preserve our freedom.
Jerry reminded us that one hundred sixteen thousand Americans lost their lives in World War I, four hundred thousand lost their lives in World War II, thirty seven thousand in Korea and fifty eight thousand Americans in Vietnam and three hundred in the Persian Gulf War. In addition, there are several thousand that remain unaccounted for up to this day. It is through the ceremonies, parades and tributes that we have on Memorial Day weekend that we remind ourselves of the sacrifices that have been made in order to keep our country free. As Jerry clearly stated we have received a gift that was bought with blood and remembered in our Memorial Day traditions.

Rabbi Joseph Weiss gave the closing prayer. Memorial Day is a very important and personal one for him. He served as a chaplain during World War II in the South Pacific. He recalled officiating at the funeral of a
19-year-old boy who had been killed in action and thinking that he was
very far from home. He noted that the soldiers are not a conglomerate group of people but rather individuals who serve their country. They gave us freedom and hope. Rabbi Weiss continued by saying that if you perform your service and fulfill your responsibility, the Lord will bless and keep you. The Lord will give you peace and happiness for all time.

We owe a big debt of gratitude to those who have fought and died for us. Let us never forget that the price of freedom is never free.


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