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Rockville Centre finds new ways to honor the fallen

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Memorial Day was celebrated differently this year in Rockville Centre, but a small ceremony still took place at Veterans Memorial Park, outside the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, on Monday, organized by American Legion Post 303 and attended by Mayor Francis X. Murray and members of the village police and fire departments.

“We at the post wanted to have this ceremony to honor the men and women who gave their lives for our country,” Commander Frank Colon said, acknowledging the “unusual circumstances” the country faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Attendees were socially distanced around the park, and most wore masks. Rabbi Cpt. Mark Getman offered opening and closing prayers, and asked as well for a moment of silence for all who have lost their lives while serving the country.

“It means so much to all of those [families] who have lost members in some of our wars,” Murray said. “Some gave all — I’ll never forget Ronny Winchester and his service to the United States of America. Many gave some — I remember my six uncles who served in World War II, and all came back alive.”

Winchester was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, at age 25.

Of the others whose names are listed on the memorial stones, Murray said, “We’ll never, ever forget you. Thank you for what you did for our country.”

“Every crisis has new heroes,” Colon said. “During this coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals who are saving others, and risking their own lives while doing so.”

These new heroes, he said, have much in common with those who were honored on Memorial Day. “America is full of veterans who have sacrificed their own lives so others can live,” Colon said. “They are both elite and ordinary. Elite in the sense of character — giving their own life so others can live is the ultimately definition of selfless. They are ordinary for the fact that they represent the diverse fabric of our country. They are rich and poor, black and white, male and female, they come from all ethnicities and backgrounds and live like every one of us.”

Colon noted that there are military medical doctors, medics and nurses who have sacrificed their lives while treating others on the battlefield, and that, like grocery store workers, delivery drivers and restaurant employees, the military also has “heroes” in occupational fields who “have all paid the ultimate price at sea, on land and in the air” while protecting those they served.

“Approximately one million men and women in the United States military have lost their lives to protect our nation since the founding of this great republic,” he said, adding that not all died from enemy fire, but some died from disease and accidents outside war zones.

“This Memorial Day, we continue to honor those who fell for us in battle,” Colon said. “Let us also pause to remember those who sacrificed their lives while serving others.”

The ceremony concluded with a laying of wreaths on the war monuments and the playing of taps by Navy veteran Pete Kaiser.