Veterans from “The Greatest Generation” were on hand to remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and celebrate the $1.3 million renovations to Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park.
Members of American Legion posts, including the Theodore Korony Post American Legion Post #253, Throggs Neck Memorial Post #1456, and Leonard Hawkins Post #156, joined with Korony Post past commander and Pat Devine in laying a wreath in honor of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the park’s war memorial on Wednesday, December 7.
World War II veterans at the event included Albert Mazza of Morris Park, Joe Garofalo of Morris Park, Emil Padula of Pelham Bay, and John Byrne of Throggs Neck.
The event included a reading by former Hawkins Post commander William Clancy that traced a time line leading up to the Pearl Harbor bombing, and taps played by veteran Joe Gics of Country Club.
“The lesson of Pearl Harbor, ladies and gentlemen, is that eternal vigilance of our national security is paramount in the minds of our leaders,” Clancy said in his remarks.
Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park, Inc. helped design the park that opened on July 4, 1976 and supervised the reconstruction, Devine said. The organization also honored the presence of World War II veterans with a ribbon cutting on the in improvements recently completed. The ribbon cutting took place near the recently planted Victory Garden along a rolling, landscaped hill.
“This is the community and the veterans getting together,” Devine said. “The community honors the veterans and the veterans honored the community. The park is now open to all people in the borough of the Bronx.”
The decision to have a ribbon-cutting as well as a wreath-laying was necessitated by the presence of the World War II veterans, despite the fact that an official Parks Department ribbon cutting had yet to occur, Devine said. The park has been open since the Bronx Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, November 13, Devine said.
“It just came about that way because the veterans were looking to open the park,” Devine said. “The World War II veterans will not be here on other people’s time tables, and this is just too important. It is a park dedicated to veterans and it is fitting to do it today.”
Garofalo said that he could remember going overseas to the Pacific in 1944 and passing through Pearl Harbor, where the superstructure of the U.S.S. Arizona was still lying. Garofalo said he believed the park was a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives for freedom.
The park’s renovation should only be making it even more appealing after the site was transformed from a sand dune by veterans like Devine, Padula said.
“It used to be all woods here, with weeds and overgrown grass,” Padula said. “I think that it is a great honor for veterans of all wars, and a great remembrance.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393