Hours after Riverhead’s Memorial Day Parade was called off due to inclement weather, hundreds of vehicles descended on the town.
Their destination: Calverton National Cemetery.
One annual tradition might have been canceled Monday, but another gave the community a place to honor the fallen anyway.
“What better place?” asked Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “This is the most sacred place in the Town of Riverhead. You can’t help but feel God’s presence here.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), himself an Army veteran, said he was encouraged to see hundreds turn out despite the rain that canceled Memorial Day events across the region Monday.
“It’s remarkable,” he said. “The level of support makes such a strong impression on the veterans, Blue Star Families and, of course, the Gold Star Mothers in attendance.”
In his speech to the crowd Monday, Mr. Zeldin spoke not only of the men and women killed in combat, but also those soldiers who commit suicide after returning home.
A Memorial Day ceremony is held each year at Calverton, the final resting place for more than 250,000 military members and their families. In addition to Mr. Zeldin and Mr. Walter, remarks were made by Matt Sullivan of the Department of Veterans of Affairs and Michele McNaughton, president of the Department of New York’s American Gold Star Mothers.
Ms. McNaughton, the mother of Army Reservist and New York City police officer Jimmy McNaughton of Centereach, the first NYPD officer killed in Iraq, spoke to the crowd about the challenges facing mothers of fallen soldiers.
The North Shore Community Band, led by retired Lt. Col. James MacDougall of the Unites States Air Force, also performed during the ceremony.
Afterward, Mr. Zeldin spoke of the important role Calverton National Cemetery plays in the lives of so many Long Island residents.
“The gravestones here each tell a story of sacrifice, love of country and service,” he said. “From World War II to Afghanistan, so many of our brothers and sisters in arms across generations have been brought here to rest at a place that is so well maintained.”
Top Caption: Congressman Lee Zeldin addresses the crowd at Calverton Nation Cemetery Monday. (Credit: Grant Parpan)