Remembering Heroes on Memorial Day
The sidewalks were decked with American flags, and people wearing red, white and blue took their preferred viewing positions along the parade route. White-shirted Haldane band members rushed down the hill carrying their instruments, and all of the dogs seemed especially excited as their owners tried to reel them in.
Just before 9 a.m., police cars began to block off parts of Main Street, and right on schedule, the shiny cars bearing veterans and other notables began the slow procession from Village Hall toward the Cold Spring Cemetery, with several stops along the way.
The bright sun and the mostly uphill march meant that marchers needed an extra dose of energy to make it all the way to the end of the route, where most of them were required to stand for another half hour or so while the Memorial Day remembrances took place.
Jan Ravase was selling paper poppies outside the Cold Spring Fire Company headquarters, and was happy to make change when we stopped to pick up a bouquet of them for our office colleagues. Rose Cava, 84 years old, asked to have her photo taken waving a small American flag. And an unidentified man resting on a bench with his adorable dog Petunia was pleased to have her picture taken.
The procession made stops at the monument at Chestnut and Main, the cemetery near Haldane, and The Church on the Hill, where Pastor Tim Greco led a prayer that read, in part:
God, bless the families who have lost someone in military service; be with them always, and comfort them in the midst of loss. May the people of the United States never take sacrifice for granted—let us honor those who have fallen and their loved ones who lost so much in the name of freedom!
When the procession made its final turn onto Peekskill Road and headed toward the entrance to Cold Spring Cemetery, the green area around the central flagpole was crowded with citizens there to pay their respects to the fallen heroes of Cold Spring.
Among the notables we saw were County executive Mary- Ellen Odell, County Legislator Vinny Tamagna, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, Mayor Seth Gallagher (in the full regalia of the Hudson Highlands Pipe Band), Nelsonville Mayor Tom Corless, Philipstown councilors John Van Tassel and Betty Budney, and Cold Spring trustees Bruce Campbell and Chuck Hustis. Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith, a distinguished military veteran, was seated with the VIPs.
Local Girl and Boy Scouts, fire companies, Little League teams, and the entire Haldane band joined the crowd.
The masters of Ceremonies included Phil Schatzle, Commander of the VFW, Terry Lahey, of the American Legion, and Parge Sgro, of the VFW. Religious representatives included Father Brian McSweeney of Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, The Rev. Frank Geer of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Pastor Peggy Laemmel of the United Methodist Church, and Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of the Philipstown Reform Synagogue.
Lt. Col. Kenneth McDonald was the keynote speaker. A highly decorated West Point graduate and member of the Army Corps of Engineers, he is a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient with a long resume of military honors and assignments. He was joined by his wife, a Colonel and head of Admissions at West Point, and his sons. Mc Donald spoke about the history of Memorial Day and about the continuing need for war veterans to get the help they need when they return from battle. “I was lucky,” he said, noting that he still had all his limbs, and that his wounds and his post traumatic stress disorder had been dealt with effectively; but he asked for everyone to remember those soldiers who may not have been so lucky.
Phil Schatzle read the honor roll, which goes back as far as World War I, and includes not only the names of the fallen, but also of hose veterans who have died since last Memorial Day. Father John Mills, the Rector of St. Mary’s Church for 30 years and the former Chaplain of the Cold Spring Fire Company, who passed away earlier this month and was a veteran of Okinawa, was especially remembered.
Following a four-gun salute, Phil Schatzle read the eloquent poem, “In Flanders Fields, by Lt Col. John McCrae.”
In Flanders fields the
Between the crosses,
row on row,
That mark our place;
and in the sky
The larks, still bravely
Scarce heard amid
the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn,
saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel
with the foe:
To you from failing
hands we throw
The torch; be yours to
hold it high.
If ye break faith
with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Father Frank Geer read a poem in honor of Fr. Mills, who was a colleague of Geer’s for a number of years before Mills’s retirement.
All across New York, towns and villages were marking Memorial Day with parades and services. In Putnam Valley, the memorial park adjoining Town Hall, as well as monuments at Lake Peekskill and the VFW hall, hosted wreath-layings and color guards.
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