FULTON, NY – Honoring those who have served, those who have fallen and those who never returned, veterans groups hosted several services around the city Monday in honor of Memorial Day.
“Once again, we have come together to honor our country’s most valuable assets; our veterans, past, present and future,” said Michael Dunn, who heads the Fulton Veterans Council.
“These women and men are our most precious and loved jewels,” Dunn said. “When we lose one of those jewels, our hearts are torn and scarred forever; a wound that will never heal, a wound that has become sorrow. The blood is long gone and what has replaced the red is now clear and salty.”
The day of remembrance started with a ceremony at St. Mary’s Cemetery, which was hosted by the Polish Legion of American Veterans. Next, the group went to Mount Adnah Cemetery for a ceremony that was hosted by the Marine Corps League.
The VFW Post 569 hosted the next tribute at the veterans memorial across from the Fulton Municipal Building. Next, the group traveled to the Fulton War Memorial for a service that was hosted by the American Legion.
Speaking to those who have served, Dunn said, “To all of you veterans here today, I want for all of you to know that you are heroes to me and I am so very proud to know you. You are and will always be a very important part of my life.
“To all of our heroes who no longer answer up at roll call, I thank you for the life I am able to have,” Dunn added. “You heroes, you veterans, you are why we are free. Thank you. Your life gave this nation life. Job well done.”
Dunn stressed that because the country never knows when the next call to service will be, it is important to show love to the children who will eventually become soldiers. The love shown now, he said, will be the strength they rely on to endure on the front lines.
“You hear that it takes a village to raise a child,” Dunn said. “But it takes a nation as a whole to protect our children.”
Harry Shortt, Loyal Knight and veterans representative of the Elk’s Lodge, greeted the visitors with a brief ceremony that opened with the Lord’s Prayer.
Explaining some statistics, Shortt explained the numbers of soldiers who served and the battle deaths that have come from each war to date.
- Revolutionary War – 217,000 served; 4,435 battle deaths
- War of 1812 – 286,730 served; 2,260 deaths
- Mexican War – 78,718 served; 1,733 deaths
- Civil War (both sides) – 3,213,363 served; 191,963 deaths
- Spanish American War – 306,760 served; 385 deaths
- World War I – 4,734,991 served; 53,402 deaths
- World War II – 16,112,566 served; 291,557 deaths
- Korean Conflict – 5,720,000 served; 33,741 deaths
- Vietnam Conflict – 8,744,000 served; 47,424 deaths
- Persian Gulf War – 2,225,000 served; 147 deaths
“I have 51 pages of casualties in Iraq,” Shortt said. “Today, there are over 4,000.”
Shortt lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. As the group was seated, attention was drawn to a round table that was set with place settings and flowers at the front of the room. Explaining its purpose, Shortt said, “It is reserved to honor our missing comrades in arms.
“Set for six, the empty places represent Americans still missing from each of the five services — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard — and civilians,” Shortt said. “This Honors Ceremony symbolizes that they are with us; here in spirit.”
Shortt asked the guests to stand again as the honor guard placed five service caps and a civilian cap on top of each empty plate at the table. As the group sat down, he explained the symbolism of each item at the table.
- “The table is round to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.
- “The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
- “The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing and their loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.
- “The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.
- “A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
- “A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
- “A (candle) represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
- “The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share this day’s toast.
- “The chairs are empty; they are missing.”