The ceremony took place at the Garden of Remembrance outside the 91st Street post, and community members gathered to celebrate the fallen heroes from the Woodhaven community.
“Families can still hear the voices of those that have fallen,” said John Lawless, vice commander of Post 118. “And it is up to us to hear the voices of those families, offer our support and express our highest gratitude.”
Air Force Lieutenant Harry Schmitt, who died in a plane crash while in the service in 1958, was singled out at the ceremony. Schmitt’s family traveled from Massachusetts for the event.
Schmitt grew up with three other siblings in Woodhaven. He attended Franklin L. Lane High school, where he was a gifted musician and athlete.
Schmitt’s family heard about the annual memorial because Harry Schmitt’s nephew, Patrick Bowmaster, is doing research for a book he is planning on writing about his uncle.
He connected with Ed Wendell of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and worked to have Schmitt honored at the ceremony.
“We owe Ed so much,” said Bowmaster. “We’re just so grateful for what he did for us.”
At the ceremony, Margaret Bowmaster received a plaque honoring her brother and his service to the country.
“I’m really thankful after all these years that we can remember him,” she said. “I haven’t heard his name mentioned in 60 years outside of the family, so it’s wonderful. It’s really nice.”
Margaret was only 19 years old when her brother died. He was stationed in at an Air Force Base in Delaware and was on a routine flight when the plane had engine trouble. The pilot survived, but Schmitt’s body was never recovered.
Margaret recalled the pain her parents endured. The family moved from Woodhaven to Long Island after the tragedy.
“It was so painful because he had so much promise,” she said. “Once a parent loses a child, they’re never the same.”