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Remembering Our Soldiers--Memorial Day in the City

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in the region was marked by parades, ceremonies, picnics and a helicopter demonstration that went awry leaving 10 observers with minor injuries.

The helicopter was an Osprey MV-22 taking part in a Fleet Week event at Staten Island's Clove Lakes Park. As the vehicle was landing, its propellers created a wind that tore branches off of nearby trees and sent them into the crowd of 150 onlookers.

Seven of the injured were taken to the hospital and five of them were released within two hours, according to Navy officials. Firefighters said three others refused treatment.

The military almost scrapped the Osprey program because of two test crashes that killed 23 servicemen in 2000, but the Pentagon has continued to develop the aircraft and has deployed it in Iraq.

Traditional Memorial Day observances took place in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

At the 107-year-old Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park in Manhattan more than 100 active duty service men and women in uniform joined veterans, public officials and other Upper West Side residents to lay wreaths.

The Naval Commander for the Mid-Atlantic Region, Rear Admiral Mark Boensel was one of the guest speakers and says there’s always a question. “There is almost inevitably the question, spoken or unspoken: Was it worth the sacrifice?”

Boensel says the military men and women who have died helped build freedom and democracy around the world.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also spoke at the ceremony before marching in parades in Whitestone and Little Neck, Queens.

“We also honor those who followed in their footsteps including the 88 brave New Yorkers who have fallen in the line of duty in the last eight and a half years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bloomberg told the crowd of about 500. “That's right, this has gone on for eight and a half years.”

The monument at 86th Street and Riverside Drive used to be the endpoint of a march that started at 42nd Street on the West Side. Tens of thousands of people used to attend the event, according to organizers, but it became less popular because of the divide over the Vietnam War.

The service, which featured performances by the New York Scottish Pipes and Drums and United States Navy Band, has become more popular in the last three years since the Parks Department has restored the monument and the plaza.

Bea Cooper, an Upper West Side resident, said it was her 55th time attending the ceremony.

“We came here with our children all those years. My husband marched with his Boy Scout troop many many years ago, so it's very much a part of our tradition,” Cooper says.

Gene Sullivan, an Air Force veteran came to the annual event in Riverside Park because a high school friend of his died in Vietnam almost 45 years ago to the day.

“Christopher J. O'Sullivan, Captain. He was an adviser to the Vietnamese Army and he was killed on May 30, 1965, and was awarded the Silver Star,” Sullivan says.

Another veteran, Raymond Anderson, says he showed up just because it's a nice outing. He served in the Marines during the Korean War, but thinks more about his friends who died at other times during the year.

“I don't need a special day. You know, these are things that, every all so often, an incident happens and it brings to mind something, and for a few moments you know you relive that,” Anderson says.

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