Despite restrictions on in-person gatherings this year, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee held strong to the office’s annual ritual of honoring fallen soldiers, joining District Attorney Melinda Katz to host a virtual Memorial Day observance ceremony.
“We are ever grateful to the women and men in the U.S. military who have served, and who have fought and who died in defense of our lives, our rights and our freedoms,” Lee said Thursday, addressing the online audience from behind a podium outside Borough Hall.
“Not even a pandemic will stop us from this annual, united observance in honor of those and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice,” she continued. “We do this in service to you, to assure you that you are not forgotten.”
As Lee spoke, the screen flashed images of past Memorial Day celebrations. Later in the ceremony, a similar slideshow featured photos from the previous day, when Lee and Katz, along with various Queens community organizations, placed fresh floral wreaths at 15 memorials and monuments across the borough, from Whitestone to Far Rockaway.
During Thursday’s event, the pair place a wreath in the Veterans Memorial Garden at Borough Hall. The ceremony also featured a live wreath-laying by Vietnam Veterans of America president John Rowan and Michael O’Kane, representing VVA Chapter 32, at the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park.
Monday marked the $2.8 million monument’s first Memorial Day since its opening in December 2019. Honoring all 371 service members from Queens who lost their lives or are classified as “missing in action” in the Vietnam War, the memorial is the first of its kind.
The project was one of the final accomplishments of Katz’s tenure as borough president.
“We are an amazing borough, we’re from all over the world,” remarked Katz. “And with that freedom to be the diverse place that we are, comes the obligation to remember the reason that we have that right to be here.”
Last week’s program maintained many ceremonial traditions even during this unusual time, including a presentation of colors, a moment of silence for the fallen, and the playing of “Taps,” performed by flotilla staff officer Barbara Wighton of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Band.
Borough President Lee also informed the public that the flags of the U.S Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard were posted on the front facade and main lobby of Borough Hall, and would remain there through Memorial Day.
Local elected officials Assemblyman David Weprin, State Senator Joe Addabbo and Attorney General Leticia James joined the occasion, delivering remarks of appreciation for the nation’s armed forces.
“The brave guardians of democracy are an inspiration for all those who have followed them on the battlefields, as well as those who stand today on the front lines of a global war against a deadly virus,” said James. “Our fallen soldiers remind us that we are one people worth fighting for, and when we stand together nothing can defeat us.”
(All Photos: Queens Borough President’s Office)