File photo: Denise Civileti

What’s this day all about?

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the more than 1.3 million Americans who gave their lives in military service to our country since 1775.

The holiday has its roots in Decoration Day, a day when Union Civil War veterans honored those who had died in conflict.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to U.S. Defense Department statistics:

  • As of May 24, 2019: 69 U.S. military casualties during ongoing Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, the coalition mission to train, advise and assist Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.
  • As of May 24, 2019: 76 U.S. military casualties during ongoing Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting Iraqi Security Force operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014.
  • 2,347 U.S. military casualties during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where U.S. military operations ceased Dec. 31, 2014.
  • 66 U.S. military casualties during Operation New Dawn in Iraq, between Sept. 1, 2010 and Dec. 15, 2011.
  • 4,412 U.S. military casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom between March 19, 2003 and Aug. 21, 2010;
  • 1,565 U.S. military casualties during the Persian Gulf War (Desert Shield/Desert Storm) between Aug. 2, 2990 and April 11, 1991;
  • 58,220 U.S. military casualties during the Vietnam War;
  • 36,574 died in the Korean War;
  • 405,399 died in World War II;
  • 116,516 died in World War I; and
  • 625,000 died in the Civil War.
Wreaths were laid at war memorial sites in Riverhead during solemn ceremonies marking Memorial Day 2018. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Remembering Riverhead’s War Dead

Riverhead Town has sacrificed native sons in nearly all of the major armed conflicts fought by the United States since its inception.

Civil War
Albern W. Case
Johnn A. Brown
Mose W. Overton
Robert L. Burns
Minor B. Reeve
John Downs
William G. Albertson
John Darrow
Charles R. Lane
Richard E. Robinson
Francis D. Masin
Nathaniel Hempstead
David E. Dayton
Harrison Norton
Parmanas Terry
Joseph Overton
Francis E. Doane
Dennis Lynch
George W. Downs
Hugh R. Pugh
Robert Henry
George D. Williamson

World War I
Van Rensselaer Skidmore
Anton Zakas
Charles E. Chituk
George L. Tuthill
John Haupt
Cornelius Keenan
Joseph Bonczyk

World War II
Army Pvt. Karl E. Lewin of Aquebogue
Army Air Force Lt. Wesley Steven Kozenka (1945)

Korea
Army PFC Alfred W. Melvin Jr. (1953)

Vietnam
AMH3 Richard T. Pinta (1967)
Army SP4 Franklin D. Tinsley (1968)
Army PFC Garfield M. Langhorn (1969)
Army SP4 James Reese Walters (1969)
Navy MM2 Lowell Wayne Meyer (1969)

Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan
Army National Guard Sgt. Jonathan Keller (2009)
Army SFC Anthony Venetz Jr. (2011)

Operation Inherent Resolve, Iraq
Air National Guard Tech. Sgt Dashan J. Briggs (2018)

File photo: Denise Civiletti

Memorial Day Ceremonies in Riverhead

In Riverhead, the Combined Veterans Committee organizes the annual Memorial Day parade, which steps off at 10 a.m. at the corner of Osborn Avenue and Pulaski Street. It proceeds south to Court and West Main streets for a ceremony at the World War I eternal flame monument. It then proceeds east on Main Street, north on Roanoke and west on Pulaski to the Civil War monument at the Riverhead cemetery, where another service is conducted. The parade’s last stop is the War Memorial at the corner of Pulaski Street and Osborn Avenue, for the main ceremony of the event, beginning at approximately 11 a.m. A ceremony at St. Isidore’s cemetery takes place following the conclusion of the main ceremony at the War Memorial.

Memorial Day ceremonies at Calverton National Cemetery begin at 1 p.m.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.