OSWEGO, NY – There were few marching in the parade, and their route was shorter. But, their message was heard around the nation – Memorial Day is the time when an ever grateful country thanks its veterans, past and present.
Members of the area veterans’ and service groups spent the morning visiting various parks and cemeteries paying tribute to our nation’s veterans.
They were soaked to the bone by relentless rainstorms that didn’t cease until shortly after 11 a.m. At some points, thunder drowned out their voices.
But they marched on.
A large crowd, despite the nasty weather, many decked out in red, white and blue, ringed Veterans Memorial Park under clearing skies with muggy temperatures in the 70s as the Port City paused Monday to honor all veterans.
Memorial Day is sacred to all veterans and families of veterans, according to George Hoffman, the master of ceremonies.
He was joined on stage by Mayor Tom Gillen, Assemblyman Will Barclay, Senator Patty Ritchie and Oswego Tourism Director Fred Crisafulli.
“Today is the first official day of the summer season. However, let’s not forget who gave us these times of pleasure and enjoyment. 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 crowd assembled in the park. “It’s a very special day. Do we know the real reason why we celebrate this day?”
It is a time 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, adding that we need to instill the importance of this day in the minds of children “or else it will soon be forgotten.”
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.
“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,” he said. “Freedom is a flavor the unprotected will never know. If 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.”
Mayor Gillen also praised the veterans.
“The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children,” he said. “That’s what today is all about. We have been celebrating Memorial Day in this country long enough now that we should know what it’s all about. It is indeed a time to sacrifice on the sacrifices and services of the American soldiers and veterans. The words ‘United We Stand,’ and ‘God Bless America’ still hold power to stir our hearts on this very, very special day.”
On a personal note, the mayor pointed out that his great-great-grandfather was killed in the Civil War.
“We don’t know where his body is; it is somewhere in Virginia. On a day like this, we can celebrate – he is really not forgotten at all,” he said.
Memorial Day is a time to remember our veterans, Sen. Ritchie said. “The reality is we should honor them each and every day,” she added. “We will never be able to repay the debt owed to our veterans. You should be sure to take very opportunity to thank them for everything they do.”
“Thank you; thank you all the veterans who have defended the freedom of this country,” Assemblyman Barclay added. “I want to say God bless those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Hoffman requested that those in charge of youth, parents, teachers and others, “teach them the importance of this day.”
“Do me one favor this Memorial Day,” Hoffman added. “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, veterans representing several organizations were out visiting cemeteries and parks around the area in honor of their fallen comrades.