Let’s not make Memorial Day a thing of the past
by Ed Wendell
May 22, 2019 | 517 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and American Legion Post 118 Auxiliary were joined by new Forest park Administrator Portia Dyrenforth and Councilman Robert Holden to decorate the Memorial Trees of Forest Park.
Members of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and American Legion Post 118 Auxiliary were joined by new Forest park Administrator Portia Dyrenforth and Councilman Robert Holden to decorate the Memorial Trees of Forest Park.
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The front yard of American Legion Post 118 is covered with white markers, each representing a soldier who is no longer with us.
The front yard of American Legion Post 118 is covered with white markers, each representing a soldier who is no longer with us.
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How is it that some traditions last forever while others, especially ones that were popular and well-observed, fade away?

For example, Anniversary Day was not only observed here in Woodhaven, it was wildly popular. Parades led by homemade floats and consisting of several thousand people, would wind their way through Woodhaven on the first Thursday every June. Today it’s just a day off for school kids.

Similarly, decorating the Memorial Trees in Forest Park was a tradition born in the wake of the First World War. Woodhaven was reeling from the loss of so many young men, and they wanted to do something special so that their memories would not be forgotten.

Once a year, families would gather in Forest Park on what was then called Memorial Knoll, and decorate the trees planted in memory of their loved ones.

It must have been a remarkable and touching sight, seeing all of those families gathering in the park, sharing their sorrow, remembering the young men they loved so much with such a simple, beautiful gesture.

The young men were gone and never coming back, but the trees were testaments to their memory. But over time, even that tradition faded away as the families themselves either moved or faded away themselves.

Those are local traditions, but can you imagine if traditions embedded at the national level began to fade away? Can you possibly imagine if days like Memorial Day began to transition from being days of solemn remembrance to just a three-day weekend, an excuse to have a barbecue or go shopping for great sales?

It’s not so hard to imagine, is it? We’re practically there already. This is why we have to fight like hell at the local level to make sure the tradition of honoring and remembering the fallen never fades away. Because if that happens, our country will be lost.

This past weekend, residents of Woodhaven stood up on behalf of tradition and gathered in Forest Park to decorate living, breathing tributes to men who died over a century ago. Simply put, Woodhaven remembers.

There are two more ceremonies over the next few days. In years past, these ceremonies would attract hundreds of people from all over Woodhaven. You didn’t have to ask people to come out and remember back then.

So we’re asking you, please take a few moments to honor and remember those who gave all on behalf of our country.

This Thursday, the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation will host their Annual Memorial Day Observance at 7:30 p.m. at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue. This observance is held in front of the memorial and everyone who attends will receive a small flag.

And on Memorial Day itself, please gather at American Legion Post 118 on 91st Street and 89th Avenue at 11 a.m. for a traditional ceremony that is now officially 100 years old. Afterwards, everyone is invited inside for refreshments.

The front yard of the post is covered with white markers, each representing a soldier who is no longer with us. This “Garden of Remembrance” has been erected in the post’s front yard for about 75 years, when it was originally known as the “Cemetery in Miniature.”

The Garden is erected each year by the student ROTC of the Franklin K. Lane Campus, and this year it is absolutely spectacular.

Take a few moments to read the names on the large granite monument and realize that each name represents a large hole in the fabric of our community. These were future teachers and doctors and shopkeepers and fathers.

The names on that monument represent young men who meant the world to their families, who were shattered when they got news that their worst fears had come true.

In return, they ask for nothing. They shouldn’t have to.

Each and every year we see less and less people at these ceremonies; 25 to 30 people is considered a good turnout, while 40 to 50 would be considered exceptional.

In a neighborhood of over 40,000 people, that’s pathetic and discouraging.

Let’s not lose any more of our vital traditions. Let’s do every single little thing we can to make sure we continue to gather and remember and pray for those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the freedoms that, far too often, we take for granted.
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