The Memorial Day weekend kicked off last Thursday evening with the annual ceremony hosted by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and led by American Legion Post 118 at Forest Parkway.
Those who attended were treated to a nice patriotic evening in front of the monument dedicated to the young men from Woodhaven who lost their lives in World War II.
The highlight of the evening was after the ceremony, with residents standing around in groups chatting. It was nice to see friends and neighbors engaging each other, it would be nice to see much more of that.
Saturday morning saw the decorating of the Memorial Trees of Forest Park on Forest Park Drive along the entrance to the park and golf course.
When we woke up Saturday morning my wife and I were feeling a bit under the weather. Okay, to be honest, we were feeling a little old. The bones were sore and our joints were stiff, and the weather forecaster said it was going to be a scorcher.
We needed a miracle and we received one in the form of a great team of volunteers, mostly kids. We had enough volunteers for three teams, which meant the decorating of the trees went very fast.
We took a few moments to reflect on the meaning of the trees, how each one that we were decorating was planted 99 years ago in memory of a soldier from Woodhaven who went off to fight in World War I and never came home.
I have to say, the group of kids we had on Saturday was the best we’ve ever worked with. They came ready to work hard, and work hard they did until the very last tree was decorated.
There wasn’t a cell phone or a game in sight the entire time we were working. That kind of work ethic is the result of good parenting.
All of the volunteers on Saturday would like to thank all of the drivers who slowed down or stopped and offered a thumb’s up, a kind word of thanks, or some encouragement.
Saturday was a great day for the neighborhood, but Woodhaven was just getting started as the Memorial Day observance at American Legion Post 118 on Monday was an uplifting community event, the kind they used to have in the old days.
Post Commander John Lawless asked everyone to look at their Garden of Remembrance, the cemetery in miniature that Post 118 has been erecting every year as a tribute to those who are no longer with us. The garden contains markers for soldiers from Woodhaven who were killed while in service, as well as members of the post who have passed away.
“Sadly, each year our garden grows,” Lawless said.
This year, a special tribute was paid to Lieutenant Harry Schmitt, the young resident from Woodhaven who was killed in an accident off the coast of New Jersey 60 years ago.
The Schmitt family left Woodhaven just a year after young Harry perished, and they were unaware that the Post had continued to honor Harry in their garden each Memorial Day. This year, the Schmitt's came back to Woodhaven for the service, and they were welcomed home as if they were old friends.
It was a ceremony that was as patriotic as it was emotional, and afterwards attendees filed into the basement at the post for beer, soda and hot dogs.
All three events saw the community come together to honor our troops and our great nation, and afterwards, engage each other in friendship and conversation. There were so many old friends on hand, and quite a few new ones. I believe it will be a weekend that many who attended will always remember.
To everyone who came out to one or more of these events, it was great seeing you and we look forward to seeing you there again next year. And to those who couldn’t find the time to attend even just one of these tributes to our troops and to our country, we hope you’ll make the time next year.