By CHRIS EBERHART
There was one message echoed by all the speakers during the Eastchester/Tuckahoe Memorial Day festivities: the weekend is not about BBQs and three days off, it’s about remembering the area’s fallen soldiers.
“The significance of this day is sometimes confused and distorted. The true meaning of Memorial Day becomes at times distant and lost to commercialism. It is not the opening day at the local pool or the start of a little league tournament,” Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita said. “It is the most solemn and patriotic day for Americans. It is a day of sacred respect and reverence and remembrance.”
Vito Pinto, this year’s grand marshal and director of the Westchester County Veterans Service Agency, said Memorial Day is about three words: “Lest we forget.”
“I’m honored to be the grand marshal, but I always say ‘Lest we forget.’ It’s not about the grand marshal, but about the veterans who made the supreme sacrifice…And always remember the three R’s: remember, reflect, respect,” Pinto said.
The ceremony began in Memorial Park on California Road by Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester, where officials like Colavita, state Sen. George Latimer, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Congressman Eliot Engel spoke about keeping Memorial Day as a day of remembrance for the fallen veterans. There were patriotic songs, placing of the wreaths at the foot of the flag and a three-gun salute.
The procession made its way to the Eastchester library, which served as the starting point and gathering spot for the Memorial Day parade, which cut through Eastchester toward Main Street in Tuckahoe and ended at the Tuckahoe train station.
Boy and Girl Scouts, elected officials, town groups like the Irish American Social Club, school bands, veterans, current military and police and fire personnel marched in the parade.
Bill Weber, a World War II veteran who was watching the parade from his home at 191 Main St. in Tuckahoe, said he was upset with the low turnout.
Although there were long stretches of unoccupied sidewalks in Eastchester, Main Street in Tuckahoe was packed with bystanders clapping and cheering for the veterans and current soldiers as they made their way through the
“Today is about honoring the men and women in our military who left the comforts of their own homes in communities like Tuckahoe and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to continue to live free,” Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond said.
“We march and watch a parade not to enjoy the sights and sounds, but to show our appreciation, respect and loyalty to the reason for the parade,” Bob Foster, commander of the VFW Post 2285, said. “The Memorial Day parade is the celebration of a gift, a gift given to millions of Americans and paid for by the lives of thousands of Americans.”
“In a few weeks from now, if I ask you where you were at 5:30 [p.m.] on May 26, you would say I was at a Memorial Day parade. But if I ask someone who was not here, most likely they wouldn’t be able to tell me where they were. I would ask him, were you doing something that was so important for you not to take a few moments to remember, reflect, respect,” Foster said.