On April 26, the Ozone-Howard Little League honored veterans with a dedication of a new memorial and the flagpole at the league’s ball fields in Ozone Park.
On a cool and windy morning children, parents, volunteers, and veterans all gathered together to celebrate the new memorial.
The fields were soaked from the pouring rain the night before, but that didn’t stop the Ozone-Howard Little League.
“We don’t care about that, we care about right now,” said Ralph Wallace, vice president of the league.
Games were scheduled on all of their fields and they were being worked on before 8:30 a.m. to be prepared for play later on.
Joe Bode, the president of the league, was proud to put this idea together and thanked all those who helped make it possible.
“We often honor the athletes, but the veterans are the true heroes,” said Bode.
The memorial plaque honors not only “all veterans of all conflicts in which the United States Armed Forces were engaged in past and present,” but the families of those who have fallen.
“May their sacrifices never be forgotten,” it says.
The flagpole above it stands 50 feet tall.
Billy Folz, from Park Promotions, made 200 shirts for the event. The proceeds raised went to the Wounded Warriors Project.
What started out as a chilly, cloudy day turned out to be a beautiful, bright one. At 9 a.m., just as more and more people were arriving, the sun started to come out. A few minutes later music was playing, kids were playing, and the breakfast provided by the league was being enjoyed.
A few of the veterans in attendance took time to talk baseball to some of the kids and parents. They told firsthand accounts of growing up in New York and going to see the Brooklyn Dodgers. They recalled how great Jackie Robinson was.
Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association, was one of the speakers at the ceremony. She spoke of her own experience as a Little League mom and how important this dedication was.
“Baseball is undoubtedly America’s greatest pastime,” Ariola said.
“The national anthem before every game is a personal thank you to those that fight for freedom,” Ariola added. “God, Family, and Country are synonymous and we should never forget that.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) was also in attendance for the ceremony. He spoke of how this league has represented the community for generations and how proud the neighborhood is to have it.
Commander Patrick Connolly, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, also spoke to the crowd that morning.
“Freedom is not free, it comes at a terrible, price,” he reminded people.
He quoted Thomas Jefferson’s adage that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots.”
“Veterans Day is not just a once a year thing, it is every day,” said Bode.