The East Bronx History Forum was started in 2005 by local author and historian Bill Twomey. Since that time, over the past 15 years, it has grown in membership, scope and of course its mission. Our motto: educate, advocate and preserve is clearly at play in regards to enlightening and educating members of the Forum and the community about the history east of the Bronx River through our monthly lectures. Additionally, we advocate for local historical issues and seek to preserve the tangible prominent structures of our beautiful borough, the Bronx.
Moreover, in the effort to educate and preserve history, we have been holding Memorial and Veterans Day services at a local war memorial, in the Van Nest section of the Bronx since 2009. Over the past ten years the content of our services and participation levels have increased significantly. Our first ceremony on Veteran’s Day in 2009 had only 8 participants. But through persistence and along with the local community groups, the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance and the American Legion specifically, we have become a focal point for remembrances services on Memorial Day and for honoring our local servicemen and women on Veterans Day.
As the years progressed, we have attained many ‘firsts’ which enhanced the overall experience of Memorial and Veterans Day. We began having an annual parade in 2012 from a designated location to the monument itself. We have located many deceased service members’ relatives whose stories have been reconstructed concerning the time of their demise and recollected on Memorial Day. Finally, we have petitioned the local New York City council member to direct funding to renovate and install a flag pole in the monument section of Van Nest Park in 2018 with its ribbon cutting in 2019.
At present, our goal now is to have the names of thirteen World War II deceased service members engraved on the monument. For whatever reason, the 94-year-old Van Nest memorial did not list any World War II service members. Whether it was lack of funding, or simply a desire of that generation to put the war behind them and get on with their lives, is something we will never know. However, with duty and responsibility comes honor and it is certainly never too late to honor our heroes.