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Whitestone parade salutes the soldiers

Whitestone residents turned their neighborhood into a sea of red, white and blue for the annual Memorial Day parade Monday.

Floats, local leaders and bands marched down 149th and 150th streets in celebration of the men and women who fought in past wars and those currently in combat overseas.

Veterans, like Jim Prudente, 81, said the celebrations made him feel proud to have served during World War II.

“A parade like this shows 100 percent patriotism,” he said.

The parade started with a somber memorial service at the Whitestone Veterans Memorial greenspace. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials reminded the bystanders about the true meaning of Memorial Day before they set off on the parade.

During the last 12 months four soldiers with Queens connections lost their lives fighting overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is a dangerous world and we are always going to have our young men and women volunteer to protect us,” the mayor said.

Marina Kurtz, 15, of Astoria, who attended the parade with her sister and two of her friends, said she came to honor the troops for their work. The teen said she is grateful for the sacrifices they made in order to keep the peace here in America.

“They stood up for their country, you know,” she said.

The celebration was emotional for the students, parents and staff at PS 193 in Whitestone. Every year the school’s choir would perform patriotic tunes at the parade under the guidance of their teacher, Ellen Gofarb, but this year’s performance was canceled after she died last week.

“There were two microphones set up right there and the kids were waiting to go,” said the Rev. Christopher Turczony of St. Mel’s in Flushing, the parade’s preacher, as he pointed to the spot at the memorial where the children were to have sung.

The parade opened with the national anthem, followed by a moment of silence in honor of Gofarb. Despite the emotional loss for the community, onlookers enjoyed celebrating the unofficial start of summer.

“It bridges the gap between the kids and the older people,” said Kathy Levine, an assistant principal at PS 193, who watched the school’s band march.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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