As the United States on Monday remembered its war dead, Caribbean legislators in Brooklyn paid tribute to the nation’s fallen soldiers.
New York State Assembly Members Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and Diana Richardson, the daughter of St. Martin and Aruban immigrants, and Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, urged the Caribbean community to join them on Memorial Day to honor “those who lost their lives while defending our freedom.”
On Monday, the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., celebrated the public holiday at Arlington Cemetery, with a small American flag placed on each soldier’s grave and a wreath laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“But, as we partake in our own celebrations here at home, attending barbecues with family and friends and lining up on the sidewalk for local parades, we must not forget what the holiday actually represents or overlook the hard-fought battles that helped secure this nation’s principles,” Bichotte, representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, New York, told Caribbean Life.
“From our early foundations to the present, servicemen and servicewomen work day in and day out to protect our rights, values and the American way of life,” she added.
Bichotte noted that in New York State, there are over 800,000 veterans, many of whom are from the Caribbean or of Caribbean background, served as far back as World War II.
“While these brave men and women survived the harrowing circumstances of war and service, they had to leave behind fellow soldiers lost on the battlefield whose families sadly never got the chance to welcome them home,” she said.
“Memorial Day honors those courageous fallen soldiers and the unmeasurable sacrifices they made to keep us safe,” she added.
“I hope you’ll join me in paying tribute to the brave souls we’ve lost, including the brave soldiers we lost in our own community,” Bichotte continued. “Memorial Day is more than a chance to get outside and celebrate the coming summer; it’s a time to acknowledge the heroes who sacrificed their lives for their love of this country.”
Richardson, who represents the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, also urged the Caribbean community to “recognize this Memorial Day as a time of observance, to pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives, to serve our country.
“During this time, we can commemorate the legacy of our soldiers who exchanged their lives for peace,” she said.
“While celebrating and giving thanks, I hope you all honor those who have died in the military service by volunteering and partaking in events related to Memorial Day,” Richardson added. “I understand many may acknowledge this day by placing an American flag on windows, cars, and even national cemeteries.
“As we recognize those who have fallen in battle, we thank you for completing your civic duty, and we hope you have a safe and engaging Memorial Day,” Richardson continued.
Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said: “We owe them [fallen soldiers] our gratitude and respect.
“We also owe such a debt to the families of those we have lost, and to the veterans who have returned home to our communities, many physically and mentally scarred,” he said. “Most importantly, it is vital that we provide them with the assistance they require and were assured they would be given.”
Williams, a candidate for New York Lieutnant Governor said he was “proud to have passed legislation that helps to ensure that we support our veterans and fulfill the promises our nation has made to them.”
He said the Veteran Anti-Discrimination Act, which was enacted last fall, protects veteran and military members at the city level and gives direct protections under City law against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.
In the coming term, Williams said he hopes to pass a resolution supporting the creation of a parade for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“As a nation, we have an obligation to make every effort to offer support to service members and their families,” he said. “Our country has made many promises to assist veterans with housing, employment and more, so I call on our city, state and federal governments to find ways to meet those commitments.”