Well over 100 people crowded in the empty lot in front of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 building and behind Broadway Market July 4 to celebrate Fourth of July and honor those passed veteran family members from the community.
Last month, the Rocky Point/Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce announced an initiative to honor passed veterans with banners hung all along Broadway and King Road. For the Fourth of July, the local groups hung 33 pictures of veterans from the Rocky Point area. The chamber raised $3,300 from the community in order to raise the banners.
Those on the banners included people who had fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the many families in attendance, was the McCarrick family, who had three passed members of the clan up on those banners. This included the elder McCarrick’s brother Hugh and Kevin’s father William, mother Phyllis and uncle Thomas, all of whom participated in the Navy during WWII. Family and friends of Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa, of the U.S. Air Force who was a bronze star and purple heart recipient, were also there to remember his life.
As families sat in the small lot with groups of chairs distanced from each other, chamber and VFW leaders led the crowd in thanking vets for their sacrifices. Included in the event was the usual singing of the national anthem and the reading of the Declaration of Independence by multiple local residents.
“As you celebrate with your family and close friends, I ask you to honor all American patriots,” VFW Commander Joe Cognitore said to the assembled crowd. “They are the ones who allowed us the freedom to celebrate today.”
When Cognitore said he joined with the VFW in the 70s, nearly everyone there was a veteran of WWII. Now, he said, they are down to just two living members who participated in that long-ago war.
Chamber President Gary Pollakusky said though the area has been hit hard because of the coronavirus, “We are strong, we are fighters, and we will all get through this.”
He referenced people he called “keyboard warriors” who “stoke fires rather than build bridges.” As compared to the “doers,” which he said included the veterans and people who helped put on the ceremony.
The names of all those hung on the banners were read out and a bell tolled in their honor, with those men’s and women’s families standing when each was called in turn.
The banners will be kept up throughout July. The chamber is looking for people to submit names for next year’s ceremony, which could include deceased veterans, living vets and active duty service members or any other military heroes the community wishes to recognize. They are also asking for additional donations for next year.