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Memorial Day honors veterans, armed forces in Laurelton

American history class came to life for 9-year-old Jasmine Williams at Laurelton’s annual Memorial Day parade Monday afternoon.

The Laurelton resident attended the parade with her father, Clive, and continued to absorb the lessons he said he hoped she would learn through coming every year to the parade.

“I always try to come and support the local Memorial Day services, and I bring my daughter with me so that she can understand and see for herself that there are people who sacrificed for their country to protect our freedoms,” he said.

The event featured a procession down Merrick Boulevard of veterans from wars as early as World War II, men and women currently serving in the military, the familiar staccato rhythms of a drum corps and the matching uniforms of local Boy and Girl Scout troops.

They were all headed to the Memorial Triangle, where veterans gave speeches and read poems, elected officials paid homage to the nation’s living and fallen warriors and songs and prayers were dedicated to their sacrifices.

Vietnam veteran PFC Dartis Judson of Jamaica got there early. Having served in the U.S. Army between 1968 and 1970, much of the final two years on the battlefield, he saved a spot right near where the action was going to be.

He said Memorial Day is a rare, essential chance for children like Jasmine to learn about the importance of the service of all the soldiers who fought in the United States’ armed conflicts.

“Young people should know that men and women in the service died for our freedom. It still goes on today in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said with a genuine warmth and wisdom. “They should remember the people that served their country, even the people that didn’t give the ultimate sacrifice. Every year, young people should take the time to do that.”

First Class Airman Bob Walker, who fought with the Air Force in the Korean War, seconded Judson’s thoughts and added some of his own.

“Memorial Day is to pay respects to those who lost their lives or were disabled in wars, and to educate the youth about being patriotic,” he said. “Best country in the world, we have to respect it and protect it.”

All the excitement and activity put a broad, toothy smile on Jasmine Williams’ face, but it was clear that she had gotten more out of the event than just the enjoyment of her favorite part: the dynamic music.

“Memorial Day means celebrating all the people who save our country because they need to be appreciated,” she said with a poignant wisdom as the last of the parade passed by.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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