Some came with canes and walkers. Others held onto the arms of their sons or daughters as they slowly lowered themselves into lawn chairs. More than 120 people gathered in Glen Cove’s Morgan Memorial Park last Saturday for the unveiling of a monument honoring the 335 World War II veterans from the Landing, a one-square-mile neighborhood that borders the park.
“We’re so pleased to have the legacy of these veterans in such tranquil surroundings for generations to come,” said Ben Farnan, a Korean War veteran and the commander of VFW James Donohue Post 347. He helped spearhead the effort to build the monument. “We didn’t want the community to forget them.”
Made from black granite and bearing the names of residents who fought in World War II, the new monument replaces an old wooden one that was taken down in the 1960s. The project was six years in the making, cost $32,000 and was funded by a state grant made possible by former State Sen. Carl Marcellino.
A monument committee comprised many volunteers, including two World War II veterans who have since died, Mayor Tim Tenke and two of his predecessors. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department provided landscaping and logistical support. “Everyone kept their eye on the ball,” said Farnan. “It was never about us; it was always about the veterans.”
No fewer than five of the veterans whose names are on the monument attended the ceremony. World War II veteran Ed Murphy was born and raised in the Landing. A Navy man, he served in the Pacific aboard the USS Taylor. Now 96 and living in Bethpage, he came to the unveiling with his daughter and son-in-law, Rose and Dave Johnson.
“I’m absolutely so proud of my dad,” Rose said. “We have two sons, and he tells them stories from his days in the Navy.” Dave said he appreciated that so many people came to the unveiling on such a cold day.
Some of the honorees weren’t well enough to attend, and many have died. Robert Kormoski’s father, Frank, is among the names on the monument. “My father was in the U.S. Army and wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, but he never talked about his service,” Robert said, holding back tears. “My father is gone now.”
Journalist Tom Brokaw coined the phrase “The Greatest Generation” to describe Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. Today their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Ac-cording to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, of the 16 million Americans who fought in the war, fewer than 500,000 are still alive.
In his introduction before the unveiling, Farnan, the master of ceremonies, said that during the war, you would see groups of local teenage boys walking down the street to enlist together. “The Greatest Generation certainly applies to each and every one of them,” he said.
The event had a festive atmosphere, and many memories were shared. Duke Preski, 76, who lives in Glen Cove, volunteered for the service when he was in high school, long after the war ended. “That’s what you did back then,” he said. He was a tank driver, and from 1960 until 1966 he was stationed at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Asked how Germans felt about American soldiers, he said, “We partied every night. When you’re 19 or 20, that’s what you do; you don’t care.” Then he added, “The frauleins were great.”
Three of Preski’s uncles are listed on the memorial, he said. “Coming together is what Americans should be doing,” he said, “instead of listening to a bunch of airbags on TV all the time.”
Herb Schierhorst, 78, served in the Navy from 1959 to 1963. He was aboard the USS Henley during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when American ships blockaded Soviet ships headed to Cuba. Being on the front lines of a possible nuclear war didn’t faze him back then, Schierhorst re-called. “We were 19,” he said. “You don’t let things like that bother you when you’re that age.”
As the crowd watched, the monument was unveiled with what Farnan described as “a deep sense of awe and with utmost respect.” As attendees caught a glimpse of it, they voiced their appreciation.
“Wow it’s really nice,” someone said.
“I see William Donaldson’s name,” someone else added, “and Daly.”
Now, with their names etched in granite, the World War II veterans of the Landing will always be remembered.