2008-02-28 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Memorial Day Is Three Months Away; Is That Enough Time?
By Charles Rogers

Carlton Richardson of American Legion Canarsie Post 573 has started the ball rolling on asking for volunteers to help plan this year's community Memorial Day Parade and associated events. Obviously a planner and a man of action, as well as pride, Richardson doesn't want to see a day that has been put aside to patriotically honor the military treated as just a day off from work or school.

"It should mean more than that," he says. "It should be a day we honor those who fought for us in wars and conflicts."

In recent years, despite the efforts of people like Richardson and a few others, frankly, our attempt at Memorial Day parade through the streets, along with a small, special ceremony at the Veterans Circle at the foot of Rockaway Parkway, looked like a lesson in apathy. The turnouts have been, well, embarrassing! Oh, sure, there were a few (very few) of the regulars; those like Richardson and a bunch of people you could always count on to attend similar functions, tromping their way down Rockaway Parkway. They'd all been around during wars - or at least they'd had a member of their family in the military while the country was in a world conflict. There was even a contingent of Vietnam veterans who, despite their attempt to distance themselves from the "regulars," eventually joined the march, no matter how ragged it was.

That's the way things turned out to be in these recent years. Not much of a memorial on Memorial Day.

Ah, but you should have seen it in Canarsie 15 years ago; maybe as recently as ten years ago!

Officials of the Legion, its Ladies Auxiliary and the St. Pius X Council Knights of Columbus put their heads together and came up with a community parade that was a PARADE! There were at least three marching bands lined up at the starting point on Conklin Avenue and East 95th Street, where the Knights' headquarters was located - and there were more bands at the Legion Hall on East 92nd Street.

Interspersed were local military groups, like the Disabled American Veterans and Jewish War Veterans and other veteran groups preceding two ambulances from the Canarsie Volunteer Ambulance Corps, along with civic leaders and their organizations.

There were Boy Scout troops and Girl Scout troops, Cub Scouts and Brownies, along with the 69th Precinct Community Council members proudly carrying the very same banner they wave today. Members of the clergy took part, marching reverently and proudly along with children from the three parochial schools, who followed contingents of kids from every public school in the community as they trekked to the Parkway, south to Avenue M to Remsen, with a stop at a small World War I memorial at P.S. 115, where the honor guard would fire a few shots in the air.

The march continued north on Remsen, with literally hundreds of people standing on the sidelines waving little flags.

It was something to see…and take part in!

The home owners whose houses were located along the line of march would drag their folding chairs to the terraces and porches of their homes, along with a Coke or a beer, and wave to their marching friends as they paused at Canarsie Cemetery at the corner of Remsen Avenue and Avenue K. A small group of parade officials, along with an honor guard, would go inside the cemetery and a short prayer would be read at the Civil War monument, followed by another five-gun salute for those interred within.

They would then rejoin the parade; up Remsen Avenue and back to Conklin, where the marchers would be summarily dismissed in a military manner.

You shoulda seen it!

It hasn't been that way for quite a while now. Laziness or apathy, or maybe the fact that the war in Iraq hasn't been brought home to the American people enough has made us forget about patriotism and what it means. Oh, yeah, there's something going on over there in the land of Scheherazade, but it's too much trouble to get into it now. We'll watch a little bit about it on television and then get into something interesting, like American Idol. And, oh, by the way, I'm sooo glad that writers' strike is over, so we can get our minds off the, uh, war over there…or somewhere.

Three cheers for the writers and the TV networks and American Idol. Hey, that's what capitalism (and fun) is all about, right? In the meantime, though, give a thought to next Memorial Day. It's the last Monday in May; three months away. Plenty of time to plan something real nice; maybe a little bit like it used to be…

To volunteer - or just talk - call Carlton Richardson at 1-718-257-9628.

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