They gathered to honor their fallen comrades who died defending our freedom.
Members of Woodhaven Post 118 of the American Legion came together to pay tribute at the its annual Memorial Day ceremony at their Woodhaven headquarters on Monday in a ceremony that also brought out many residents.
Multicultural High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC cadets participated in the service and set up a “Garden of Remembrance,” a replica of a military cemetery, containing nearly 700 miniature crosses and Stars of David, each adorned with an American flag and a red poppy flower to represent a post member who died in service.
The program began with a prayer by Loretta Phillips, president of the post’s Ladies Auxiliary, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem. John Lawless, commander of the post, then noted that this year four new markers will be added to the Garden of Remembrance.
“Our departed comrades exemplify the highest virtues of citizenship and love of country by their service in our armed forces,” Lawless said. “I say to our deceased comrades, thank you, God bless you, we miss you, we will never forget you.”
Wreaths were laid at the foot of the monument on the post’s front lawn by Ladies Auxiliary member Donna Marie Caltabiano and members of the Junior Auxiliary.
The ceremony concluded with Phillips reading a special prayer in remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to their country.
Among those paying homage to the fallen heroes was past member Al Matukonis, 95, who served as a paratrooper during World War II and helped liberate the Los Bainos prison camp in the Philippines. Matukonis received the Bronze Star from the Army. He said his unit, the 11th Airborne Division, served as Gen. MacArthur’s bodyguards and had trained to invade Japan. Also participating in the ceremony was Army Reserve Sgt. Major David Valentin, the post’s vice commander, who has served in the Army for over 32 years.
He is a military police officer currently assigned to the 800th Military Police Brigade in Farmingdale, LI.
Valentin participated in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in Kosovo in 2001 and was deployed with his military police unit to Iraq in January 2003, where he spent 15 months.