When the USS Intrepid was first launched in 1943, Plainview resident Ed Coyne was on board as a crew member.
On Monday, the nonagenarian World War II veteran looked on as more than a dozen service members unfurled a 100-foot American flag on Pier 86 — the pier where the aircraft carrier is permanently docked — as part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s Memorial Day ceremony.
“It’s a great honor,” said Coyne, who attended the annual ceremony with his wife. “It makes me feel good.”
The museum’s tradition honors current and former service members, as well as those who died serving.
This year’s event drew hundreds of veterans and active service members, including Adm. Bill Moran — the nation’s Vice Chief of Naval Operations — and Lt. Jack McCain, son of the late senator and Vietnam War veteran John McCain.
It was also the penultimate day of Fleet Week, which brings thousands of military members to the city each year.
“New York has a special place in all of our hearts. And if you’ve been lucky enough to wear your whites in Times Square, or march down through Brooklyn in a parade or be thanked for your service by New York’s finest, there is no doubt New York City is the Navy’s hometown,” Moran said.
“Today is a solemn occasion as we pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he added. “For many of those heroes, New York City, with its world-famous skyline, the Statue of Liberty in the background, these were their last sights before they set sail for unfamiliar and dangerous places.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, took a break from his recently announced presidential campaign to speak at the commemoration ceremony.
De Blasio’s own family “understood the cost of war,” he noted. His father, who served in the Army during World War II, lost half of his leg when he was hit by a grenade in Okinawa, the mayor said.
“When he came home, the war came home to our whole family,” de Blasio recalled. “He suffered emotionally as well, in ways we understand now but in previous generations weren’t understood, weren’t embraced.”
“We never want Memorial Day to be something that people just see as a date on the calendar and they just think of it as another holiday,” he added. “This day is to remember our fallen — ones in our own lives, and ones we never got to know.”
Just before the flag was unfurled, volunteers, including Coyne, laid four memorial wreaths on the Hudson River — two to honor U.S. military personnel lost in past and current conflicts, one to honor Intrepid crew members who fell in action, and one to honor fallen military personnel from Allied nations.
The ceremony also included a performance of Echo Taps, a three-volley rifle salute, and a military flyover.