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Maspeth honors war heroes with annual parade

Adeline Speer was not born in the United States and she does not own an American flag, but that did not stop her from enthusiastically displaying her brimming patriotism as an attendee at the Maspeth Memorial Day Parade Saturday afternoon.

Born in Ireland, the fiery-haired Maspeth resident has lived in America for many years, so she worked with what she had and waved an American flag-themed dish towel in the air filled with the sounds of bagpipes, drum corps rhythms and whoops of support for the country’s fallen soldiers and living veterans.

“I’m an immigrant, but I love America. I shake my flag because I’m proud of this country. We have such freedoms here and people forget we have people dying in wars for these freedoms,” she said. “It’s really for respect to honor the deceased soldiers.”

Hundreds of people filed through the Grand Avenue commercial district, from children handing out free American flags from a float created in honor of prisoners of war and soldiers declared missing in action to a seven-piece band of musical seniors playing and singing old-time war tunes on a flatbed pulled by a pickup truck.

John Krukowski is 89, so he chose not to march in the parade but wore a hat embroidered with the words “World War II Veteran.”

A Polish immigrant, Krukowski fought in the Polish army under British command in World War II and eventually moved to New York 52 years ago.

The Maspeth resident has attended the event for each of the past 25 years.

“There’s not many left from the Second World War. This parade should help all the kids be proud of their country. I’m proud that I’m a veteran and they should look to be proud of veterans,” he said.

Annette Doyle of Maspeth brought her three children and niece to the parade. She said “the best part of the parade” was that it featured many veterans from long-past wars, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The parade is a rare chance to expose youngsters to the actual people who fought to protect the freedoms they might otherwise take for granted.

“It’s important to show our kids. I was born in Ireland, but they were born here and it’s important for the kids to be grounded in the history and sacrifices that were made,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Vincent Fraser of Middle Village served 21 years in the Army National Guard, including a tour from 2003-04 with the 442nd Military Police in Iraq.

Both his father and grandfather were in the military and he has a personal connection to the meaning and lessons of Memorial Day.

“It’s a day of sadness, actually, to remember the sacrifices that those before us made,” he said. “Not everyone came back from Iraq, so it’s time for me to pay my respects.”

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

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