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College Point remembers heroes

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Photo gallery

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Erik Diedrich, a Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate, Third Class, falls out to shake hands with spectators aong College Point Boulevard. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Ayram Hinostroza, 2 1/2, waves her flags. Photo by Christina Santucci
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College Point WWII veteran Frank Milano gives a salute as he passes by. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Poppy queen Brianna Marie Denicker rides in a Humvee. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sailors shake hands with veteran Frank Feeley (r.), who served as a Sergeant in the Army. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Ralph John Barba Jr. sports a helmet of his own in College Point. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A Marine shakes hands with children on College Point Boulevard. Photo by Christina Santucci
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New York Army National Guard Master Sgt. Jessica Huff, who served as the parade's grand marshal, rides in a classic car. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Louie Rovegno sits with his dog Poindexter in MacNeil Park. Photo by Christina Santucci

Residents of College Point lined the streets to honor the men and women of the U.S. armed forces at the annual Memorial Day Parade Sunday.

Cheering the bands and the veterans were hundreds of onlookers, including residents of the Cliffside Rehabilitation & Residential Health Care Center, at 119-19 Graham Court, where 86-year-old Doreen Merrot sat waving her flag and waiting for one guest in particular.

“I want to see the mayor,” she said. “I heard he’s coming and it’ll be nice to give him a wave.”

Her waiting paid off as Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the procession, as did state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

Avella said while he was honored to march in the parade, both he and the mayor yielded all the attention to the veterans — those lost and those still with us.

“Their ultimate sacrifice is the reason why we can march, the reason why we can celebrate,” he said. “They stepped up and fought for freedom and for that we should honor them every day.”

The senator said Memorial Day is not only a time to honor veterans, but it is also a time to raise awareness of the many hardships faced by the nation’s returning veterans of war.

“One of the issues we’re facing is the number of homeless vets in our country,” he said. “There is one shelter in Long Island City, but we need more. Many veterans are disabled and need a level of attention that is different than other sections of the homeless population. And we as elected officials must do more to address their needs.”

Along the parade route, Mary Pollonino stood with families waving flags and cheered the veterans, both young and old.

“I’m so glad to see such huge groups of younger military personnel marching today,” she said. “I think the young people in the crowd see that and it hits home with them — they see that people who serve this country are close to them in age. It gives them a greater appreciation.”

Evan Waters, a recent Queens College graduate, said he hopes the younger generation looks at Memorial Day as more than just a day off from school.

“As Americans, we really can’t do enough to honor our military,” he said.

The parade ended at MacNeil Park, where the recently deceased were remembered with honor and reverence. Master Sgt. Jessica Huff, the parade’s grand marshal, spoke briefly about just how privileged she felt to join her fellow service people.

“It is truly an honor to represent those who fought and those who are still fighting,” she said.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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