The Village of Valley Stream’s deep-rooted pride for its veterans is unabashedly apparent. Look no further than its traffic-halting, flag-waving celebrations like the annual Memorial Day Parade or its more inconspicuous memorial shrines and dedications peppered throughout the village.
But while there is no shortage of patriotic gratitude, village officials have launched a recent effort to make a more permanent tribute to the village’s veterans outside of the traditional holidays — one that will commemorate year-round the faces of those who served.
Introducing the Valley Stream Military Banners Program. It’s a simple yet compelling patriotic gesture — one already adopted by various municipalities across Long Island — to hang banners adorned with a loved one’s military photo, name, rank, branch, and years of service along village streets.
In particular, the banners will be spread along the Memorial Day parade route starting at the Wheeler Avenue Elementary School, continuing south on Rockaway Parkway, making a right onto Valley Stream Boulevard, and ending at the Veterans Memorial Monument at the Village Green, noted General Village Supervisor Brian Howley.
“And if we have a lot more banners, we can start from Rockaway Avenue and Merrick Road down the parade route and even do the village parks,” said Howley. “And we’ll even have an online map of who goes where.”
The goal is to have the bulk of the banners up in time for the village’s Memorial Day parade in late May, noted Barbara DeGrace, assistant to the Mayor. “We can only work with what we receive and there is a turnaround time, so we need to get the banners produced and ready to go for Brian and his team by the end of April.”
Mayor Ed Fare is among the first to apply for the program, turning in his paperwork to have the likeness of his father, a World War II veteran, and his brother, who served in Vietnam, up on patriotic display.
“One of the things we hope with this program is that folks like me can honor and recognize their veteran family members not necessarily in a cemetery but right here in my village,” said Fare. “I want to show my granddaughter her great grandfather, or her uncle on a banner in the village, which is much more meaningful, and much more emotional, than just having a parade or barbeque.”
Village officials underlined that interested village residents should not delay in submitting their applications. It may take residents time to comb through stowed-away archives or dredge up memento boxes from the basement to get their hands on just the right photo of their loved one.
When the banners are up, Fare hopes that the residents will stop and pause as they look up at the faces on their walk and ponder the weight of the lives led and personal sacrifices taken by those who served in the nation’s wars.