The Forest Hills Memorial Day Ceremony is only a few weeks away, and organizers met together last Wednesday at the American Legion Continental Post 1424 to conduct their final preparations for the event.
The occasion will take place on Sunday, May 30, in Remsen Park and pay tribute to all the men and woman who have died while in the U.S. military. Slated to go on for just over an hour, the event will be filled with music, speeches, and honors.
This year, the ceremony will not only recognize fallen service members but will also honor the sacrifice of frontline workers. Members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be honored at the event for their efforts in saving the local community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Arcati is commander of Post 1424 and has been a major force in organizing this year’s ceremony. He served in the navy for a combined total of eight years as both a prosecutor and defense counsel. Specializing in international, criminal, and tax law, he’s been awarded the Bronze Star among other military accolades. It was his goal to extend Memorial Day to as many people as possible. “This event is not just for the veterans but for the community and the service that is central to how it functions.”
Arcati couldn’t envision honoring sacrifice this year without paying homage those who grappled with the pandemic on behalf of Queens, especially those from the volunteer ambulance service. “Like a military they lined up side by side, and put their lives on the line without question,” he said. “These people never asked for a dime, and they need to be recognized.”
Event organizers have also announced their 2021 Grand Marshals for the event. This year there are four honorees: Dr. Teresea Amato, Heidi Chain, Bob Simpson, and Captain Joseph Cappelmann. The selection represents a cross section of public service that is vital to New York, including the director of Forest Hill’s largest emergency room department and the commanding officer of New York’s 112th Precinct.
For many service members Memorial Day is not only a time to honor lost connections but also reconnect with those who have also served. Arcati said he expects to see plenty of familiar faces from Post 1424 at the ceremony. “We have over 100 veterans at Post 1424, and for some of our more senior members it’s the only way for them to socialize and find comradery with their brothers and sisters.”
Vice Commander of Post 1424 Pat Conley has been a member of the organization for over ten years and has seen hundreds of hours go into planning this year’s ceremony. Conley said he’s thankful that the veteran community has been getting their vaccines. “Our members are of all ages and backgrounds, but it’s awesome to see that everyone who needs it is already pretty much double-vaccinated at this point. I think it will be a tremendous celebration and a good day for the community.”
The laying of the wreaths is a pillar of military tradition in the United States and will happen at the end of the ceremony. There are a handful of veterans from Post 1424 that will be honored at that time and have the bell rung in their name as attendees pay their formal respects.
There were countless volunteers who helped make this year’s event a reality, according to Arcati. Whether it was small tasks like putting up flags or bigger responsibilities like manning the grill, he said there was an outpouring of support. “Veterans want to continue serving, even when they’re done with their military obligations, but it’s really wonderful to see people take time out of their schedules to come in and help out.”