Despite the rainy weather last weekend, all seats were occupied at the Brightwaters Village Memorial Day Ceremony on Saturday, May 29.
Community members huddled tightly under a tent in front of Brightwaters Canal for the roughly 30-minute ceremony that celebrated the holiday and honored those who died while serving in the United States military.
The event began with a prayer from chaplain Chet Striplin of VFW Post 365. Speeches from mayor John Valdini, former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Thomas Digilio Jr. and former U.S. Navy Capt. and Islip Town councilman John Cochrane Jr.
“It’s so important that we continue this tradition,” Valdini said to the crowd of about 60. Valdini explained the history of Memorial Day, noting that approximately 5,000 people gathered at the first official Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868 to decorate 20,000 graves. Today, there are over 400,000 individuals buried at the site.
“Everyone buried there had one thing in common: they all wore the uniform of the United States,” he said. “We must always remember those who put on that uniform, those that shed their blood, those that made the ultimate sacrifice—they are the ones that gave us this free country and made us a free people.”
“We are a proud and free nation because of those who have sacrificed before us,” added Digilio. “We must never allow this covenant to be broken, nor must we allow the citizens of this country to forget the honorable service and lives that these veterans gave to defend and protect us.”
Brightwaters resident and town councilman Cochrane recognized all veterans in the audience and applauded them for their service prior to his speech.
Cochrane served in the U.S. Navy “from Beirut to Baghdad,” as he put it, until the second Persian Gulf War. One of the benefits of being a military member is the sense of community, he said. He shared a memory of when he first climbed aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey, a battleship, he met a fellow Bay Shore resident in his stateroom. The duo formed a close bond.
“When you're on an Army base, a fort, or you’re out at sea, you’re going to bump into somebody. And those are your brothers and sisters,” Cochrane said. “And on Memorial Day, we all come together to remember those who can’t be there with their family and friends.”
Valdini also recognized Steven Prescott, the only Brightwaters resident who died in combat during the Vietnam War. His name appears on the village’s veterans’ walkway, which was created last year with financial contributions from the Bay Shore Fire Department, Bay Shore Lions Club, Marine Corps League, and others. The names of over 350 names are present on the walkway.
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