OSWEGO, NY – Once again, the Port City paused to honor and thank the men and woman who fought and died for our freedoms.
Members of the area veterans’ and service groups spent the early morning visiting various parks and cemeteries paying tribute to our nation’s veterans.
A few onlookers, several with flags and cameras, lined the parade route from West Park to Veterans’ Memorial Park shortly before 11 a.m.
A large crowd, many decked out in red, white and blue, ringed Veterans’ Memorial Park under the clear skies and warm temperatures greeted the group as it marched into the park.
The Snowbelters opened the ceremony by singing The Star Spangled Banner
Memorial Day is sacred to all veterans and families of veterans, according to George Hoffman Jr., the executive officer of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps in Oswego, the master of ceremonies.
He was joined on stage by Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen, Assemblyman Will Barclay and Mave Gillen representing Congressman Dan Maffei.
“Today is the unofficial first 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. “Memorial Day is a time to reflect on (veterans’) service and sacrifice; even as our armed forces are performing difficult and dangerous missions in distant lands.”
It is a very important date for his past and current military brothers and sisters, 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. “Except for their service, we all would be facing different circumstances today. During World War II, American forces literally helped save the world from tyranny and oppression.”
“Our defenders are ordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds,” he said. “Freedom has a flavor the unprotected will never know. Let’s never forget this day. I request those of you in charge of our youth, on behalf of my military brothers and sisters, teach them the importance of this day.”
“The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children,” Mayor Gillen said. “Sadly, these days, Memorial Day it seems more like a day to have a long weekend and get ready for summer holidays. That’s all the more reason to remind people exactly why we celebrate this day. We come here today not just to mourn our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines – we come here to praise them. (Memorial Day) is also about celebrating their lives and heroic deeds.”
Assemblyman Barclay said it was a honor to be in Oswego to help celebrate Memorial Day.
It was also an honor to be on hand over the weekend when the Veterans’ Council of Oswego announced the Veteran of the Year for 2014, John Canale, he added.
“This is the day that gives us a chance to pause and reflect on those American principles that make the United States worth fighting for, and in some cases, dying for,” he told the large crowd. “Since the time of our founding, our nation has resolved to nurture freedom by serving as an example for the rest of the world; and ultimately defending other democracies.”
Do not take our freedom for granted, he added.
“Today we stand together to remember the brave heroes who gave their lives for our great nation. These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our American values and freedom at home and abroad, and they deserve our eternal gratitude,” Mave Gillen said reading from Rep. Maffei’s letter. “As we honor the fallen and reflect on their courage, we also pay tribute to our veterans and service members who are wearing the uniform today. We are inspired by their courage and commitment, and must always strive to be worthy of their service. Thank you to all who have served and given so much to our country.”
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.”
The large crowd responded with a hearty round of applause to thank the veterans present at the ceremony.
According to Hoffman, the military is lowest paying job in the world. They are on duty call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, he said.
“When you break that down (on average) it amounts to 36.7 cents per hour. So you can see, they don’t do it for the money,” he said. “The US military is just one percent of our population. They protect the other 99 percent!”
Earlier in the day, veterans representing several organizations were out visiting cemeteries and parks around the area in honor of their fallen comrades.