OSWEGO, NY – Their ranks are thinning . . . but still they march on.
On Monday, members of the area veterans’ and service groups spent the early morning visiting various parks and cemeteries in Oswego and surrounding communities paying tribute to our nation’s veterans.
A handful of onlookers, some with flags and cameras, lined the parade route from West Park to Veterans’ Memorial Park shortly before 11 a.m. several applauded and waved as the group marched by.
A larger crowd, many decked out in red, white and blue filled Veterans’ Memorial Park under the clear skies and warm temperatures, greeted the group as it marched into the park.
The Snowbelters performed patriotic songs for the ceremony.
Memorial Day is sacred to all veterans and families of veterans, according to George Hoffman Jr., of the Oswego City Veterans’ Council and the master of ceremonies for the 18th year.
Oswego’s ceremony was “one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today,” he said.
He was joined on stage by Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow and Assemblyman Will Barclay.
Hoffman said he’d like to see more of the younger veterans and youth in general involved in Memorial Day.
“I’d like to see more of the youth involved. It’s nice to see the Girls Scouts here. That’s a start,” he said recognizing the small contingent of Girl Scouts who participated in the parade.
“Today is the unofficial first day of the summer season. However, let’s not forget who gave us these times of pleasure and enjoyment. We’re here today to honor our heroes; to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication. And, to say thank you for their sacrifices,” he said. “We stand in the midst of patriots.”
This day is in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice, laying down their lives so we have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms that we have today, he explained.
“Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer,” he said. “They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting, they were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extra-ordinary ways in extreme times.”
He told everyone to pass along the reason the veterans died so those who never knew them would understand the reason for observances such as Memorial Day.
“We owe it to our fallen heroes to pause from our routine so that we may respectfully honor their lives and sacrifices for liberty and freedom. One day, just one day to remember the sacrifice of those who have gone before us. And also, to remind those who have been touched by the pain of war that the lives they mourn were not offered in vain,” he said.
“It’s a real honor for me to be here again this year,” Barclay said. “Memorial Day is one of the most significant and patriotic days celebrated in our nation.”
“America was founded on the concept that all men were created equal and capable of ruling themselves,” he said. “In 1776, that was a stunning and radical concept and we had to fight a war against the British Empire to secure it.”
Since then, many brave men and women have fallen defending those rights, he added.
“Let’s us not forget our service men and women have always fought with skill and bravery. And those who have fallen, did so knowing that they were upholding our constitution and the principles on which this great nation was founded,” he said.
“I just want to say what an honor it is to represent a community where we have so many local organizations who are so dedicated and so committed to remembering and honoring and helping our local veterans,” Barlow said. “It’s important that we remember them not only on Memorial Day but every day.”
Hoffman asked the crowd if anyone knew what was the biggest pay a member of the military could receive.
“Do me one favor this Memorial Day,” he explained. “Pay tribute to those who gave all. And, if you encounter a living veteran today or other military person – just say thanks. That’s all the pay we need.”
Earlier in the day Monday, veterans representing several organizations as well as the Oswego Elks were out visiting cemeteries and parks around the area in honor of their fallen comrades.
A wreath was placed at the memorial for Gold Star Mothers. traditionally, the late Fred Crisafulli, the 2006 Veteran of the Year, the wreath, as his mother was Oswego’s first Gold Star Mother in World War II.