By Jocelyn Rhodes Cook, OCT Correspondent
BALDWINSVILLE, NY – On Saturday, a boat launching from Dutchman’s Landing in Baldwinsville carried some very special passengers along the Erie Canal for a luncheon and boat cruise.
The Thank a Service Member organization, of Oswego hosted an event for current and past service members to be recognized for their service and to enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Emita II.
“It’s intended to be a day of serenity,” explained Peter F. Allen, Executive Director for Thank A Service Member, Inc. “A chance to for those who really just need a day away.”
Active service members and veterans alike were invited on the boat cruise, and several active military members were present in uniform on the lower deck, where most of the cruise attendees escaped from the rain the first half hour of the event.
The lunch cruise, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. hosted several service members from the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, out of Syracuse, and the 444th Engineer Company of Oswego.
The event included lunch, giveaways, speakers, and informational announcements by the captain about aspects of the canal system of New York State.
Master Sergeant Debora Mallet, a currently active member of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, said that this was her first time on a boat on the Erie Canal.
“I had no expectations,” she stated when asked what she thought the event would include. “I knew it was to show appreciation.”
Mallet had “never been” to a Thank a Service Member event. In the military for 32 years, she plans to continue in her service as her career.
“I’m very proud of it,” Mallet said.
Founded in 2006, Thank a Service Member develops programs “that focus on awareness, community involvement, tributes and appreciation ceremonies, outreach programs, and education,” and events like the boat cruise are just some of what the charity organizes to achieve these goals.
During the cruise, lunch was served to those present, with several courses available.
Attentive waitstaff rushed around the lower deck along with Thank a Service Member volunteers.
While the meal was enjoyed, raffle prizes were also awarded.
Many volunteer-created baskets were included in the prizes, but gifts from sponsors such as CNY Jewelry Exchange and Syracuse University were also among the prizes as well.
Other sponsors for the event included National Grid and Oswego County Federal Credit Union.
The cruise included a trip through Lock 24 in Baldwinsville, and as the rain lessened to a slight drizzle, passengers were able to move up to the top deck and experience firsthand how the locks operated.
And along the cruise route, herons, swans, and even a few bald eagles were spotted, a treat for both guests and crew.
At the conclusion of the cruise, all service members were presented with a Thank a Service Member Coin, “intended to serve as a source of pride and remembrance,” according to information provided by the organization.
And as the Emita II docked and service members onboard left the vessel, a crowd waited on the shore to cheer on and thank the men and women for their service.
Thank a Service Member is always looking for volunteers.
For more information, call 315-402-5915, [email protected], or visit www.thankaservicemember.org
(Editor’s Note: Jocelyn Rhodes Cook would like to thank Peter F. Allen for gifting her with a Thank a Service Member coin to award to her father, Stephen Cook, a Navy veteran.)