Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start to the summer beach season, but it’s also a time of reflection, and for many it’s an opportunity to honor the men and women who have served in the military.
Jones Beach honored both traditions with its annual Air Show, which included high-flying stunts by military jet performance teams, and exhibits that allowed civilians to interact with servicemembers. As in years past, the parking fields filled up quickly, as thousands headed to the beach this weekend.
Michael Clark brought his nephew, son, and daughter to the beach early on Sunday, in what’s become an annual tradition for his family. They set up tents, towels and umbrellas to watch the air show. “I like to tell them why we’re here for Memorial Day, too,” Clark said. “The reason why is, guys put their lives on the line for us, it’s not just for the barbecues and stuff.”
Julio and Paulene Varela donned their best red, white and blue for the event. They have three children currently serving in the military, and a fourth, a Navy veteran, who is now working as a lobbyist for disabled veterans in Washington, D.C. Julio Varela, a Vietnam veteran, said he’s proud of those who served.
“It’s about remembering those people who paved the way for us to have the life we have now,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, this would be a totally different country.”
The men and women of the military were on the minds of many, including Vietnam veteran Gerald Reichert. “The service that these ladies and gentlemen do today, it’s even tougher than when I was in,” he said. “Because they’re fighting a whole different war.”
Reichert said that remembering his time in the service can be tough. But he said he tried to reflect on all the men and women who have served and are currently serving each Memorial Day.
Army Sergeant First Class Lenox Roberts said he hoped more people would do just that: remember that the holiday is meant to honor the sacrifices of America’s soldiers. “It is a holiday, but remember what the holiday is about,” he said. “Our veterans and those who’ve given their lives to serve, in one way or another, this great country.”
Staff Sergeant First Class Lenox Roberts, with the Army National Guard, at Jones Beach (Annmarie Fertoli).
The Clark family makes the Jones Beach Air Show a Memorial Day weekend tradition (Annmarie Fertoli).
Brothers Sidney and Charlie came for the air show and met service members at Jones Beach (Annmarie Fertoli).
Julio, a Vietnam veteran, and Paulene Varela have three children currently serving in the military. The fourth is a Navy veteran who now works as a lobbyist for disabled veterans in Washington, D.C. (Annmarie Fertoli).