At 97, WWII Veteran says he never misses Memorial Day Parade

The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade is an annual tradition for thousands of families in Queens, who for the last 92 years have paused each Memorial Day to honor the men and women how have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Among those devoted attendees is 97-year-old Robert Lesser who may have attended more Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parades than any other living soul.

Robert Lesser says for most of his adult life he has never missed the annual event.

"Every year I come and I try to sit right in the same seat," Lesser said. "It just makes me feel good all over. It gives me an opportunity to think back on what I know. I've seen so many things that younger people haven't today and this sort of brings it in focus for me. I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's how it is."

Robert Lesser is a World War II veteran. He flew 70 missions in a B-25 bomber and received about 10 medals for his bravery, including the Purple Heart.

"He's amazing," said David Lesser, Robert Lesser's son. "There's not many like him left."

The parade has tried to honor Robert Lesser but he won't have it.

"I don't know," Robert Lesser said. "It feels like showing off."

Robert Lesser says what's more important to him is that the country pauses to reflect.

"Just to be good, just to be happy, to love each other and to remember if they can, that back many years ago George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and we guys who grew up in the 20s, 30s, and 40s were part of making this the great country what it is," Robert Lesser said.

Most years Robert Lesser is accompanied by his family. Together they sit among the thousands of people who line Northern Boulevard to watch the parade, which stretches just over a mile and features nearly 200 different participating groups including, veteran's organizations, marching bands and public officials.

This year, four generations of Lessers were represented at the parade. The youngest was Robert Lesser's great-grandson Bennett Preiss, who is especially proud of his great-grandfather.

"Everyone keeps wanting to talk to him because they see his medals," Preiss said. "When he landed there were 100 bullet holes in his plane."

Robert Lesser said he enjoys reflecting on his life and his comrades during the parade, many of them no longer living, and hopes the country will not forget the great sacrifices that were made when people like him are no longer alive.

"You sort of find yourself like the last man standing and it's not a lot of fun, believe me," Robert Lesser said, adding that so long as he is standing he'll be at this parade, sitting right at the end, medals on, and smiling at the people who pass.

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