Square merchants celebrate Memorial Day

The Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square held a special ceremony of remembrance on Thursday, May 27 for the men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom.

The merchants gathered together to place a memorial wreath beside the Square’s World War I memorial in Owen Dolen Park. The tradition was brought back to life last year, and grew even larger this year as leaders of different merchant’s groups gathered for Memorial Day early.

Greg Perry, president of AMBPWS, said that anything that could be done to raise awareness about soldiers who have given their lives in years past, and who continue to make the supreme sacrifice today, is a good thing. He was glad that so many different merchants turned out, including those from the Pelham Bay, Throggs Neck, and Castle Hill communities.

“We definitely all want to honor the veterans who have given to this country,” Perry said. “We have wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. We would like to make everyone aware of all of the fine things that our young veterans have done.”

Perry said that it was also important to honor the men and women currently serving in the armed forces. He said that the sacrifices that they are putting forth are contributing to the freedoms we enjoy and the lifestyles we have as Americans.

“This is precisely the reason that it is a good thing to have an active merchants association,” a representative from Councilman James Vacca said. “Here you have an example of a tradition that went to the wayside at one point but was brought back by the merchants group to show respect for veterans.”

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto was also represented at the ceremony. His representative said that it means a lot to have respect enough to remember those who lost lives and loved ones in various wars and conflicts.

Joe Regina, secretary of the AMBPWS, helped coordinate this year’s event and brought back a tradition that had been absent on the Square for decades. Years ago, merchants gathered together to lay a wreath at the location every year.

John Bonizio of Metro Optics said that while he was glad the merchants were gathering to celebrate our veterans, he was less pleased with the Square’s Navy and Air Force recruiting stations. He said their overall appearance was disheartening.

“Today is a great day because we have the opportunity in this country to be free to stand here on this corner and celebrate our soldiers,” Bonizio said. “Unfortunately, across the street is a recruiting center for the Air Force and the Navy that never rolls its gate down and looks like a crack house. It has looked that way for years.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com.

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