OSWEGO, NY â€“ There were fewer officials on the stage this year. But, it appeared the size of the audience increased from years past.
The Port City paused Monday to honor veterans past and present.
A large crowd, many decked out in red, white and blue, ringed Veterans Memorial Park under clear skies as the temperature hovered around 80.
Memorial Day is sacred to all veterans and families of veterans, according to George Hoffman, the master of ceremonies.
Invitations for speakers were sent out earlier. However, this year, there were more observances than speakers to go around to all the events, he explained
“This day is in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice, laying down their lives so you and I and our families have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms that we have today,” Hoffman told the large crowd assembled in the park. “Before any of us celebrate (the unofficial first day of the summer season), let us never forget that first and foremost Memorial Day should be a day to honor our brave veterans.”
It was no holiday for them; they did not have a picnic, he added.
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.
Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman also praised the veterans.
“We are here to express our gratitude to those among us who have served our country. We are here today to raise our voices in praise for those who are today representing our country in dangerous lands against determined enemies,â€ he said. “As a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, I am profoundly aware of the sacrifices that have been made by those veterans that are blessed to be with us today. We must never take these freedoms for granted.”
He urged the crowd to visit the military memorials â€œscattered throughout Oswego, including historic Fort Ontario, which is open this year.â€
â€These memorials that so often go unnoticed in the business of everyday life will today humble us and make us enormously grateful for the sacrifices that these engraved stones call to mind,â€ he said. â€œThis year, thanks to the efforts of Tom Galloway and Bill McCarthy, weâ€™ve instituted a Trees for Vets Program, whereby a veteran can be remembered by the planting of a tree along Bridge Street.â€
More than two dozen trees have already been ordered; some have been planted.
Oswego Legislator Mike Kunzwiler read a letter of appreciation from Sen. Darrell Aubertine.
â€œJust as you have stood up for our country, we will continue to stand by you and support you and your families. Thank you for all that you have done,â€ he read.
â€œFreedom is a flavor the unprotected will never know,â€ Hoffman said. â€œIf you do nothing else today, please never forget the message from those who we honor today. For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor,â€
Earlier in the day, veterans representing several organizations and the National Grid Veteran Employee Research Group, were out visiting cemeteries and parks around the area in honor of their fallen comrades.