OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Nearly 50 people, young and old, ringed Veterans’ Memorial Park on Wednesday.
They gathered among the flags and monuments like they always do Ã¢â‚¬â€œ to honor their fallen comrades who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the rest of us continue to live in a free nation.
“Come on, gather around here. This isn’t that big of a place,” Mayor Randy Bateman said urging the crowd to move in closer to the flags and monuments at the center of the park.
The park is reportedly the site of the first free-standing MIA – POW monument in the nation.
After a brief prayer in honor of all veterans, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom, the flags at the center of the park were lowered.
The Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded.
The Prisoners Of War flag was to be next.
Then, the American flag was retired as well.
The flags will be raised again next spring.
Oswego Tourism Director Fred Crisafulli accepted the flags on behalf of the city.
The temperature lingered in the upper 40s; a brisk northerly wind off Lake Ontario made it feel much colder.
Still, the veterans and others came, just like last year and the year before that and the year before that.
Oswego area veterans huddled next to each other with family and friends as they witnessed the brief ceremony.
“Veterans Day commemorates the Armistice back in 1918 (after World War I). It is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour,” explained Bill McCarthy of the city’s veterans’ council. “That’s when the truce was declared. No matter what they call it, it’s still Armistice Day.”
“This is the 91st anniversary of that first observance,” said George Hoffman, the day’s MC. “It is a day to honor every veteran who has fought for our freedom. Spread the word about the true meaning of Veterans’ Day, it’s not just a day off from work.”
In 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans’ Day following World War II and the Korean War, he pointed out.
In 1968 it was decided to move the holiday to the last Monday of October, he said. The first non-traditional Veterans’ Day was celebrated Oct. 25, 1971 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ “observed with much confusion.”
“Many states didn’t agree with this and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date,” he noted. “Finally on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance to its original date beginning in 1978.”
“Today, it is my honor and privilege to represent the citizens of Oswego and salute all the courageous veterans who selflessly served our country,” Mayor Bateman said. “As a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, I am profoundly aware of the sacrifices made by those veterans who are blessed to be with us today. The time you spent away from home and family, often in hostile territory, is not forgotten, nor does your service go unnoticed.”
“There is no greater service than to serve in the cause of freedom,” he added.
Senator Darrell Aubertine was unable to attend. He sent his regards in a letter and thanked all the veterans for their service.
Among the groups taking part in the ceremonies were VFW Post 2320 and 5885, American Legion Post 268, Elks Lodge 271, Lake City Masonic Lodge 127, Oswego Moose Lodge 743, Polish Legion of American Veterans, the Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (that now has a new ‘tent’ in Oswego), Ancient Order of Hibernians, Oswego’s Naval Sea Cadet Corps and the Knights of Columbus.
“Veterans Day is a day of respect for those who served their country and for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” McCarthy added.