In preparation for Memorial Day and the festivities to come, the United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth held a candlelight vigil to honor U.S. veterans and their loved ones.
Many community members, including veterans, gathered in Maspeth Memorial Park on Monday for an evening of patriotic spirit, entertainment, and remembrance.
Rev. Joseph Wilson of St. Stanislaus Kostka recited the invocation, thanking members of the armed forces, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and other emergency service personnel for saving lives and defending the rights of citizens.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, a rendition “America the Beautiful,” sung by Kristinka, and some words of gratitude from the organization’s president, Maryanna Zero, a sentimental poem was recited by the ceremony’s Young Poet Laureate, James White.
White is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, and serves as a lector at Transfiguration Church. He recited “Soldier,” a poem written by retired U.S. Army Major Ed Coet.
“That I didn’t honor him sooner, I will always regret; and I pledged that day to never again forget,” he recited. “I’m proud that my dad was a patriotic warrior; I’m honored to be the son of an American soldier.”
Queens residents Johnny Bee and Rosalia Gattuso performed a musical duet of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” and Gattuso sang “Ave Maria” after the ceremonial lighting of the candles.
The program was also joined by the St. Stan’s Players, who sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Candles for World War I were carried by the American Legion Auxiliary, World War II by Ridgewood Moose Lodge No. 1642 – Chapter 133, Korean War by Polish Legion of American Veterans Chapter 4 of the Kowalinski Post – Ladies Auxiliary, Vietnam War by Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter 32 – The Honor Guard, and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the American Victims of Terrorism by Francis Cardinal Spellman Council, Knights of Columbus No. 6014 Ladies Auxiliary.
Maspeth resident Carole Stines led the event, and also recited a revised version of “My Son,” a Frank Patterson song.
“I reworked some of the lyrics to suit the occasion,” she said. “In keeping with this year’s Memorial Day Parade theme, ‘Maspeth Honors Gold Star Families,’ I recited this poem. This homage is also relevant to all of those who lost a loved one in these very difficult times.”
She was also joined by Hyunjeong Lee on keyboard and Andrew Cho on violin.
During her reading and the musical performance, the family of the late Corporal Robert Rodriguez, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, stood in front of the crowd, holding up his photo.
Rodriguez, who was a Maspeth resident, had his name added to the monument in Maspeth Memorial Park 12 years ago.
Maspeth’s Memorial Day Parade will kick off at 1 p.m. at Grand Avenue and 69th Street, with festivities at 11 a.m. at Queens Vietnam Memorial Elmhurst Park, 12 p.m. at the WWI Monument at 72nd Street and Grand Avenue, and followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.