D-Day remembrance event in Port Jefferson Station

D-Day remembrance event in Port Jefferson Station

By Christopher Schulz

It was a day of reflection and honor across the nation.

The VFW 4927 in Port Jefferson Station hosted a D-Day remembrance event on Thursday,  June 6, to commemorate the veterans who fought at Normandy on June 6, 1944, a date that saw more than 2,500 American soldiers fall.

“There were about 250 [soldiers] in the first wave, less than 90 survived,” Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright solemnly noted. “In some cases, the gate of the LSD [Landing Ship Dock] would drop and a machine gun high up on the cliff would cut down everyone who tried to come out.”

More than 100 attendees, including Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow, were present at the event. Most were descendants or relatives of World War II veterans.

Only one veteran, 97-year-old Thomas Vicale, attended. He was accompanied by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The nearly two-hour event included several speeches and tributes as well as an honorary three-minute march by five soldiers around the audience. The march was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.

The climax of the service was an eight-gun salute and the unveiling of two bronze plaques listing more than 50 American soldiers who fought and survived the war – according to the plaque, these soldiers all had served and returned and worked in some capacity for Thomas Wilson & Co. Inc.

The reveal of the plaques was met with loud cheers and applause.

“[The soldiers] saw the beginning of the freedom of the European continent and ultimately the continuation of this experiment of freedom that is the United States of America,” Englebright remarked. “It seems that we have not forgotten [this day because] you’re here. That is so moving for me.”

In her short speech, Sheprow expressed her utmost gratitude and respect for the veterans and condolences to those who lost their lives during the beach landing.

Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, called the event “special.” He also recognized some families in attendance who made the day possible and whose loved ones were on the plaque.

“Their presence here today is like what it was back then. It’s that we carry on this tradition, that their sacrifices led to this amazing, generational commitment to our country and our people,” Costell said.

Another artifact of the service was a collage of 20 tangible registration cards from some of the soldiers listed on the plaque. Most of the soldiers listed on the plaque were residents of the Setauket or Port Jefferson Station area at the time of the war. According to Costell, the others resided in either New York City or Rhode Island.

At the end of the ceremony, families took time to take photographs and interact with each other.

Costell said he would be “remiss” if he didn’t acknowledge “the courage and bravery” the soldiers displayed on D-Day and expressed gratitude for their service.


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