Residents of Jamaica Estates joined elected officials and community members to honor the neighborhood’s fallen soldiers with a somber Memorial Day ceremony this past weekend.
The ceremony featured City Councilman James Gennaro, New York State Assemblyman David Weprin, along with Jamaica Estates Association and Community Board 8 chair Martha Taylor, a trumpeter, a saxophonist, Queens College’s Color Guard, the Eagle Scouts Troop 96 and the youth from the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers.
“This is about the local community coming together to remember those that came before us and gave the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could be brave, and that our children and grandchildren could be brave and enjoy the life that we have,” Weprin said.
Weprin’s father, Saul, served in the United States Coast Guard in 1945 during WWII, before becoming the Democratic leader of the 24th Assembly District and later the speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Weprin praised the current Democratic district leader for the 24th Assembly District, Martha Taylor, with restarting the in-person Memorial Day ceremonies at Jamaica Estates.
“So many local boys fought in World War II,” Weprin said, standing in front of the memorial plaque, with the names of 10 men from Jamaica Estates who died in the line of service during World War II.
The ten names on the memorial plaque are John Adikes Jr., Sigmund Gillmore, Kenneth S. Kinnes, John B. Lovely, Paul W. Olson, Norman H. Puff, Peter P. Renzo, Joseph A. Scheibel, Donald J. Schneider and Charles J. Yodice.
Seymour Schwartz, a World War II veteran and Briarwood resident, recalled what it was like to serve in the Army and then on loan to the Navy.
“You have to remember that those of us who are still alive were witnesses to a lot of death and a lot of pain,” Schwartz said. “So I think of the bodies floating in the Pacific on the beach, with the blood flowing out. You think of the guys lying dead with their intestines exposed and I think of burying them, including buddies. Like one who was shot by a sniper right next to me.
Schwartz continued, “So these are things you never tell anybody. And for most veterans, you’d come home and you don’t want to talk about these things. You want to get a job and raise a family. And you don’t even think about being a veteran back then. But as you get older it has a lot more meaning and you do a lot more thinking.”
Schwartz was assigned to the Joint Command, Commander in Chief of the Pacific, and the 5th Amphibious Force. Upon being discharged and arriving back home in March 1946, he devoted his life to serving his neighborhood of Briarwood, later becoming the President of the Briarwood Community Association for over two decades.
Andrew DeNicola, a saxophonist and a Master’s student at Queens College, played the saxophone during the service while Sean Miller, a trumpeter and a sophomore at St. John’s University played taps to close out the Memorial Day ceremony.