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North Shore Memorial Day parades cancelled, but small ceremonies allowed

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New York state will allow Memorial Day ceremonies to take place this coming weekend, Governor Cuomo said at his daily briefing on Tuesday.

Ceremonies must, however, be limited to 10 or fewer people, and social distancing — standing six feet apart — must be maintained to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Cuomo also encouraged car parades to honor the fallen on Memorial Day, which will be marked officially on Monday, May 25, although the dates of ceremonies and parades may vary from community to community.

The James F. Brengel American Legion will have a short ceremony in Sea Cliff’s Clifton Park on May 25. Post commander Phil Como there will be remarks from Mayor Edward Lieberman, clergy members and himself, as well as a presentation of Taps as a salute to fallen soldiers. He said everyone in attendance must wear masks and socially distance, and he said he is grateful to be able to still have a ceremony at all.

“It means that the sacrifice of so many,” Como said, “even in these kinds of times, our humanity allows us to remember and respect them.”

The Glenwood Landing American Legion Post 336 will have a small private ceremony of roughly 10 Post members on Memorial Day, commander Bob Bazan said. This differs from a typical year, where there would be an open service featuring several local organizations as well as members of the public. However, since this year’s ceremony will be small and closed to the public, he said the true point of the event will be lost.

“It’s nice to be able to do that but, quite frankly, the purpose of that event is to have the community participate,” Bazan said. “It’s nice to have the veterans do it, but the reality is it’s for the entire community, not just the veterans.”

Both posts cancelled their annual Memorial Day parades last month. Como said that the James F. Brengel Post’s parade, which typically runs from Sea Cliff Avenue and down Roslyn Avenue to Glen Avenue, has been cancelled due to weather in the past. However, he said the unique circumstances presented by the Covid-19 pandemic makes public safety far more important than a parade.

“It’s regrettable but life goes on,” Como said. “We have a lot of bigger things to worry about than the cancellation of a parade, but we will take a moment and pay the proper respect and remembrance.”

Bazan said the Post 336 parade, which normally starts at the Glenwood Fire Department and travels through Glenwood Landing and Glen Head before ending at the Post, is a way for the public to salute the nation’s fallen soldiers. He said dozens of organizations, from scouts to bands to fire and police departments, participate in both the parade and the following service and lamented the inability to do either one this year.

The cancellation is a disappointment, Bazan said, as both the community and the Post look forward to the parade every year.

Post 336 member Fred Nielsen said the lack of a parade is a letdown, leaving him with a feeling of emptiness. He said Memorial Day parades are important for several reasons, perhaps the biggest being the awareness of those who died in service to their county it brings to the community.

“The duties that we have for generating appropriate remembrance is something all veterans embrace eon a very deep level,” Nielsen said.

“Memorial Day is an appropriate remembrance,” he later added. “A parade is magnificent and has become iconographic in a way of accomplishing that remembrance…That life spent was then and now is precious and deserves to be hallowed and remembered.”

Nielsen said the cancellation of the parades is almost serving a purpose similar to the military, as it is meant to protect members of the community from possible harm.