Posted by Joan Coogan on Saturday, May 25th, 2019 at 11:32am

How many of you actually know the meaning of Memorial Day? It is a federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered. The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national and local cemeteries.

When I was a child, Memorial Day meant attending the parade on Forest Ave. and having a BBQ in the back yard afterwards. To this day, I attend the Memorial Day Parade on Forest Ave. with my family and friends. My mom would remember her cousin, Private Eugene S. Wasielewski, who died in World War II at the age of 23.


In 2005, Memorial Day became personally meaningful to me. On August 4, my godson/nephew, Private Nils George Thompson, was killed in action by a sniper in Mosul, Iraq, one day after his 19th birthday.

This young man grew up on Staten Island; in 8th grade, he moved with his family to a 100-acre farm/Bed & Breakfast in Confluence, Pennsylvania. He helped his family on the farm building fences, a porch, sheds and a tree house and tended to the livestock—cattle, sheep, goats and chickens. Nils grew up playing with GI Joe's and always said he wanted to follow his grandfather, uncles and aunt, who served proudly in World War II, into the military.

Upon graduating high school at 18, Nils enlisted in the Army and became a member of the Stryker Brigade based out of Fort Lewis, Washington. In February 2005, he departed for Iraq. He always encouraged his family when he called or wrote, playing down the danger of war. He told his cousin, Jeff, that when he got back home and came to Staten Island, he wanted to buy $100 worth of Ralph’s Ices—his favorite! He called his grandmother and told her he was treated to a lobster dinner (her favorite) for his birthday on August 3. He was deeply religious and attended Bible study on base as well as weekly services. He loved to read the Bible, and his squad chaplain witnessed him talking about the Gospel to others trying to bring them closer to God. Nils made the ultimate sacrifice almost 14 years ago by giving his life while defending our country.

On this Memorial Day, I ask that you take a moment to say a prayer and remember our fallen heroes. To date, more than 6,800 U.S. service members have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom alone, nine of them Staten Islanders.

Army Sgt. Michael DiRaimondo- killed 1/8/2004 in Iraq - age of 22.

Navy Petty Officer Scott McHugh – killed 5/2/04 in Iraq - age 33

Army Pvt. Brian Grant – killed 11/26/04 in Iraq - age 31

Army Sgt. Ian Sanchez – killed 6/16/06 in Afghanistan - age 26

Army Pfc. Collin Mason – killed 6/1/06 in Iraq - age 20

Army Sgt. Yevgeny Ryndych – killed 12/6/06 in Iraq - age 24

Marine Cpl. Thomas Saba – killed 2/7/07 in Iraq - age 30

Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis – killed 8/28/13 in Afghanistan - age 24


What does Memorial Day mean to you? Will you share your thoughts and memories with me and my gentle readers? Please leave a comment, write or call me at joan.coogan@gmail.com or 646-258-9696.

Joan Coogan

Associate Real Estate Broker

Gillani Homes

646-258-9696 – cell



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