President Donald Trump broke barriers by being the first US president to kick off the regularly-issued invitation from organizers of the New York City Veterans Day Tribute Parade in the 100th annual gathering organized by the United War Veterans Council in Madison Park. There, the president pronounced “your greatest tribute of all is the way you lived your lives in the years since.” In a different kind of accolade, the Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center community located in the Jamaica section of Queens continued a time-honored Veterans Day tradition of inviting a local politician to showcase the glorious lives and pay tribute to their residents who served in the military. Over 40 occupants assembled in a demonstration of respect to the veterans that comprised roughly half under long-term care while the others are participants in the rehabilitation division. True they may not be as spry as when they fought oversees, but their spirit is remembered in an established tradition where Margaret Tietz ensures that the Queens community remembers their efforts.

“Councilmember Rory Lancman serves the nursing facility’s district and was delighted to join the staff to recognize the 20 veterans in our facility,” remarked Margaret Tietz Director of Public Affairs Linda Spiegel. Lancman spent time thanking each veteran individually and noted how “we thank you for keeping us safe and giving us the opportunity to live here in the United States of America because of your valiant efforts in times long ago.” The councilmember also recognized that “we are safer as a country because of each of the veterans’ distinctive struggles.” He continued, “Veterans Day is a time to recollect the men and women who showed up, answered the call, and pledged their lives.”

Spiegel yearns to make what would happen for her residents outside in the community a reality at Margaret Tietz in their current home. “Every Veterans Day is their day, and Margaret Tietz wants to show them that we are appreciative for their work.”

One veteran reminisced how he and his friends left their families shortly after marrying to join the service and jumping straight into boot camp after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, exclaiming, “I would definitely do it all again.” In all, 20 veterans were celebrated, 17 men and three women, encompassing ten residents serving in the US Army with two known to serve in World War II, one in the Israeli Air Force and one in the Israeli Army, two in the US Marine Corps, one serving in the Coast Guard, one in the Guyanese military, while one was in the Lebanese military and one in Russia’s forces. Robert Lesser humbly evoked emotion, mentioning the over 70 missions he flew for the US Army during the Second World War. “The singing and dancing at the conclusion of the war is a moment I will cherish forever,” stated another veteran.

The love and caring of Margaret Tietz’s staff were quite evident as staff passed out slices of a beautiful holiday cake and fruits. Director of Recreation for the facility, Alexander Gugelev, was originally a wedding singer and today spends each Thursday providing residents with a concert. For the holiday, he altered his schedule to accommodate the Veterans Day celebration, leading an upbeat, energetic display of music enjoyed by all. Other recent weekly themes include the 1970s and the 1980s, and many are looking ahead to the world music theme scheduled for next week.

Lancman concluded the ceremony by wishing all “a happy and meaningful Veterans Day” and passing out flags to each of the veterans present while calling on one to lead the gathering in a teary-eyed recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, where all expressed their loyalty to the flag and the republic of the USA. One staffer explained her tears as recalling some residents who have since passed; participating in this custom, “we honor their sacrifices for their country.” She mentioned a story once told by a resident who started life at 19 going to war, elucidating, “You would never trade those moments, but you keep it in the back of your mind to fall back on when you have a difficult situation.”

In all, Veterans Day conjures faded memories of times long ago when the United States, Israel, and the nations of the world called on its best to give of themselves.

By Shabsie Saphirstein