A 'Garden' grows in Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
May 22, 2013 | 6705 views | 0 0 comments | 202 202 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A beautiful and important tradition is making its yearly appearance at the corner of 91st Street and 89th Avenue at the home of Woodhaven’s American Legion.

In 1919, right after the end of World War One, Congress chartered the American Legion, a national organization for veterans. Woodhaven’s Post No. 118 was one of the very first posts to be chartered in the country.

For many decades, for as long as most of us can remember, our American Legion post has put together a touching and beautiful tribute to their members who have passed on in the form of a Garden of Remembrance.

In the front and side yard of the Legion Hall, hundreds of markers are erected, each representing a member of the post who served; each marker representing someone’s father, or brother, sister or mother.

For decades, the legionnaires of Post 118 would tend to the Garden, cut the grass and haul out racks of markers that got heavier and heavier each year as new Crosses and Stars of David were added.

This longstanding Woodhaven tradition continued until 2007, when the legionnaires said that it was getting too difficult to continue and would soon be coming to an end.

In fact, it looked like there would be no Garden of Remembrance the following year until the Cadets of Franklin K. Lane’s ROTC program stepped forward to lend a hand.

And they have carried the weight ever since, right up through last weekend when, under the supervision of Sgt. Major David Valentin, the cadets drove stakes into the ground and tightened ropes to be used as guides to place the markers in straight lines.

It is hard work that they perform beautifully.

Each Cross or Star of David gets adorned with a red poppy and an American Flag. The red poppy was featured in the famous poem "In Flanders Field," a description of the bright red flowers that bloomed across many of the violent, bloody battlefields of World War One.

The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, who witnessed these battles and did not live to see the poem published, but the red poppy he so beautifully described has endured as a symbol of remembrance.

I have had the privilege and honor to get to know several of the veterans of Post 118, two gentlemen in particular, and this will be the first year that their names have been placed in the Garden.

Our good friend Joseph Virgona, who passed away last fall, and Roger Hennin, a Director of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association who passed on just last week will be added to the garden.

These were two good men of faith, veterans, members of the Knights of Columbus, greatly involved in their church St. Thomas the Apostle, and very good friends with each other. It seems entirely fitting that they enter the Garden of Remembrance together.

The Legion’s Garden of Remembrance Ceremony will take place on Monday, May 27, at 10:30 a.m. Color and Honor Guards will be provided by the cadets of Franklin K. Lane High School Air Force Junior ROTC.

After the ceremony, everyone is invited inside to the Post lounge for food and drinks.

If you have not seen the Garden of Remembrance or the beautiful Memorial Day Ceremony held by American Legion Post 118, you owe it to yourself to attend. Strike that. You owe it to each man and woman represented by the markers in that garden to attend, to thank all of them for their service and to remember.

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