By Capt. James A. Ridley, Sr., PAO
FARMINGDALE, NY – May 27, 2007. As members of the Col. Francis S. Gabreski Squadron left the recruiting station they set up on the Jones Beach boardwalk during the Memorial Day Weekend’s Air Show, they had one final duty to perform. One of the Squadron’s Officers had requested a brief ceremony to honor his father who was interred at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale NY. Two cadets from the Gabreski Squadron color guard volunteered to perform the ceremony and flag at the grave of the Air Force A/1C who served in the Korean War.
After finishing the ceremony the group began to leave, when the senior officer noticed a gentleman placing flowers on a grave nearby. He approached the gentlemen who was wearing a NY Fire Department 9-11 t-shirt and asked if the grave he was tending to was that of a loved one. “Yes” replied the gentleman, “he was my son and he was a NYC fireman who died in one of the towers.” The senior officer then asked if the cadets could honor his son’s grave and salute his son’s final resting place. “I would like that very much” said the gentleman with his eyes welling up with tears.
C/CMSgt Stephanie Filiberto and C/MSgt Joshua Medina, shouldered arms and marched reverently to the gravesite. They went to present arms and rendered a brief salute before marching off. The gentleman thanked the cadets and asked one last favor. He explained that his wife could not bring herself to visit the gravesite. He asked, “Would you go to my wife who is sitting in the car over there and tell her what you did for our son?” As the cadets approached the car and before they could even say anything, the woman smiling through her tears said to them “Thank you. I saw what you did for my boy and I appreciate it very much.” The emotion of the whole situation played on the cadets who were silent for some time during the ride home, letting what happened to sink in.
On Memorial Day Weekend, when many people barely acknowledge the purpose of the holiday, these cadets honored a Korean War veteran on behalf of a grateful son as well as a home town hero for his grieving parents. This has truly been a memorable Memorial Day for all concerned.