“It’s the guys that didn’t come back [who] are the real heroes,” said veteran Walter Paruch, who will serve as the grand marshal during Rockville Centre’s Memorial Day parade on Monday.
Paruch, 69, who grew up in Oceanside and moved to Rockville Centre in 2004, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969, beginning active duty in June of that year. He was stationed in Quantico, Va. and served in the Marine Corps Reserve until October 1971, reaching the rank of sergeant.
He will lead fellow veterans from Rockville Centre’s American Legion Post 303, as well as members of the fire department, local business owners and other community members down the village streets. The parade will step off at 10 a.m. at Municipal Parking Field No. 2 — at North Village and North Centre avenues. A ceremony will follow at 11 a.m. in front of the John A. Anderson Recreation Center — 111 N. Oceanside Road — where a new monument will be dedicated as a way to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of World War I.
Frank Colon, commander of Post 303, said the monument would include a plate with names of Rockville Centre residents that served in World War I. He added that Mayor Francis X. Murray recently discovered the plate in the basement of Village Hall, and that it includes names that are not on the village’s existing World War I monument.
The St. Agnes Choir will sing at the parade and ceremony, Colon said, and student musicians will also perform.
“The most important thing about Memorial Day is that we never forget the nation’s heroes that gave freedom and liberty to everyone in the United States,” Colon said, adding that it is especially important for children to appreciate the men and women who served.
Paruch, a longtime Post 303 member, said that he would be thinking about three of his friends that he went to elementary school with in Oceanside who gave their lives for their country.
“They never bought a brand new car,” he said. “They never married and bought a house. They never had a really good job and they never had a family. They gave up a lot so we can be here today.”