The American Legion Charles A. Fowler, Jr., Post #160, is hosting its annual Veterans Day Parade and Tribute Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11. Post Commander Louise McCann shared that the parade starts at the Great Neck Alert Firehouse and marches up Middle Neck Road to the Village Green. The parade starts around 10:45 a.m. and ends at the Village Green, where the tribute ceremony begins at 11 a.m.
“All three fire companies, Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts march,” said McCann. “And this year, our parade is being led by the Kellenberg Memorial High School Pipes and Drums.”
The Veteran’s Day tribute ceremony begins at 11 a.m., signifying the time that the Allies and Germany signed an armistice meant to end fighting on the Western Front, a region that included Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and other bordering countries. As a result, the cease-fire took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
“The other Veterans Associations, the Legion and the VFW, we commemorate, we celebrate Veterans Days because we have to do what needs to be done so our veterans are never forgotten,” said McCann. “We all do it so our veterans are never forgotten.”
McCann joined the American Legion in 2006, shortly after she retired from the U.S. Army in 2004. U.S. Army Veteran McCann shared that her father’s service inspired her to enlist in 1975.
“My dad, bless his soul, always wanted to serve,” McCann said. “He had an appointment in Annapolis for the physical exams but they found out he had partial loss of hearing in one ear so he couldn’t attend the academy. But he enlisted in the New York National Guard.”
“I was always so impressed with my dad’s work in the National Guard and I thought, my country is giving me everything, it’s about time I give something back,” she said.
When initially enlisting, it is a three-year contract. McCann ended up serving for over 25 years. McCann spent most of her time in the Army Reserve, which was initially the Weekend Warriors.
“All the reservists and guardsmen took some offense to being called the Weekend Warriors because we’re citizen soldiers,” she said. “We did our regular job during the week, and we put on our uniforms and proudly served one weekend a month and two weeks a year for annual training.”
“Once you start accumulating rank, which I did, I retired as a Master Sergeant, one weekend a month turned into two or three weekends,” McCann explained. “We had administrative drills on Tuesday night, and then, of course, the annual training never changed. You have to do that.”
McCann spent most of her time at Fort Totten; then, she did two three-year tours with the 800th Military Police Brigade in Uniondale.
At the beginning of her time in the service, there were only five women in the unit. But as the years went on, McCann was happy to see that number grow.
“Back then, the Pentagon decided that women could only do administrative work,” said McCann. “I was basically a Radar O’Reilly from MASH. I was sitting there, typing away and filing because the military didn’t think that the women were capable of doing anything else but administrative work.”
“Now, we have ladies that are flying the space shuttle, we have wonderful women who are combat pilots, we have wonderful women who fly helicopters in combat,” said McCann. “And I told all my young soldiers, the only thing that is going to hold you back in your military career is yourself. You have all the opportunities; you just have to reach out and grab them.”
When McCann moved to Roslyn in 1991, she attended church services at the United States Merchant Marine Academy and met Jim Barton, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. Through Barton, McCann joined the Great Neck American Legion in 2006.
The Great Neck American Legion’s namesake is Captain Charles A. Fowler Jr., “whose whole family is from Great Neck,” shared McCann. “Captain Fowler’s name is on the World War I plaque at the Veterans Memorial in Village Green. And his name is also on the Veterans Memorial in Cutter Mill Park.”
Like many organizations, American Legion membership is declining. The Great Neck American Legion is always open to welcoming new members; most recently, a U.S. Army Nurse from Roslyn joined, shared McCann. One member of the Great Neck American Legion members just celebrated his 90th birthday. James Morehead is a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Korea. He has been a part of the American Legion for some time now and was the Grand Marshal for this year’s Memorial Day Parade.
“We have a meeting once a month on Tuesdays at the Great Neck House,” said McCann. “And then after, we all go out to dinner. You have to feed the troops, no matter what time or date.” To join, visit the American Legion website (legion.org).