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Honoring those who served in Riverhead at annual Veterans Day ceremony

Members of the Riverhead community joined for a brief moment of pause Wednesday morning in observance of Veterans Day.

The annual remembrance, held by the Riverhead Combined Veterans Committee, looked a bit different this year with attendees keeping social distance and wearing masks — many adorned with the American flag — but the 102-year tradition of honoring service members on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month continued.

Thomas Najdzion, Commander of VFW Post 2476 in Riverhead gave a moving tribute to members of the armed forces, especially those who hail from the local community.

“Our neighbors, who have fought in defense of this country and for preservation of the way of life. Those men and women are worthy of far greater recognition than mere words or markers,” Mr. Najdzion said.

Veterans Day, he said, marks a day to express gratitude and pay tribute.

“These american defenders … left their peacetime pursuits,” he said. “They were aware of the dangers before them yet they responded to the  call of duty. They are the true guardians of freedom, justice and equality among men.”

In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 would be observed as Armistice Day, which was first designated as a national holiday by Congress in 1938 and became known as Veterans Day in 1954.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and the entire Town Board also attended the event, along with local veterans and their families.

Addressing the group, Ms. Aguiar said it’s important to celebrate and honor veterans but also ensure their legacies are always remembered.

 “Educate our youth. Teach them about the sacrifices which were made and why. Honor our veterans and their families by ensuring they have a roof over their heads, food on their table and proper medical care,” the supervisor said. “Never forget the sacrifices unselfishly made to protect the precious gift of freedom and democracy for each and every American citizen. We cannot take these gifts for granted.”

The ceremony featured a ceremonial wreath laying at the granite memorial for World War I that honors the Riverhead men who served during the first world war, the traditional three-volley salute, where three signals are fired into the air, as well as the ‘Taps’ bugle call.

According to Mr. Najdzion, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the monument, which was dedicated in 1920 by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. In his remarks, Mr. Najdzion provided an overview of Mr. Roosevelt’s life and notable service record during World War II.

“As long as I’m alive, I’ll keep the history alive,” Mr. Najdzion said.