OSWEGO, NY – Once again, the Port City paused to honor and thank the men and women who fought and died for our freedoms.
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 few onlookers, several with flags and cameras, lined the parade route from West Park to Veterans’ Memorial Park shortly before 11 a.m. They applauded as the group marched by.
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., of the Oswego City Veterans’ Council and the master of ceremonies.
He was joined on stage by Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen, Oswego Councilor Billy Barlow representing Assemblyman Will Barclay and Jim Hayes representing Senator Patty Ritchie.
“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 our 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 said, adding, “Do we or our children know why this day is so important?”
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. “If we don’t instill in our youth the importance of this day, it will soon be forgotten,” he warned.
“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. “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. I say thank you to those who have given their lives on my behalf.”
“We’re here to to recognize the sacrifices that our fighting men and women made over the years. But, we’re also here to celebrate their lives. The service members that we honor today come from all walks of life. But, they share several fundamental qualities – courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity,” Mayor Gillen said. “They didn’t go to war because they loved to fight. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways.”
He thanked the veterans present at the ceremony for their contributions and sacrifices.
“We remember and we honor you all,” he said.
Barlow 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 2015, Len Maniccia, he added.
“Words alone can not fully express our gratitude toward our veterans and the families that support them,” he said.
Do not take our freedom for granted, he added.
“I would like to thank each of the veterans in attendance for your service to this great nation. Today we gather to say thank you to the brave men and women of our armed forces,” Hayes said reading from Senator Ritchie’s letter. “They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy every day.”
It is impossible to fully repay the veterans for their service, he continued.
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.
Earlier in the day, veterans representing several organizations were out visiting cemeteries and parks around the area in honor of their fallen comrades.
Taking part in Monday’s ceremonies were: AMVETS, the American Legion, the VFW posts, Oswego Elks Lodge,Polish Legion of American Veterans, Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Knights of Columbus.
OSWEGO’S VETERAN OF YEAR
Walt Ferens (deceased) – 2001
Bernard France – 2002
Anthony Leotta – 2003
George Clifford (deceased) – 2004
Gene Saloga (deceased) – 2005
Fred Crisafulli – 2006
John Kosteroski (deceased) – 2007
Paul Rerdon – 2008
Clark McHenry (deceased) – 2009
Marlene Knopp – 2010
Paul Lupa – 2011
George Hoffman – 2012
James Sullivan – 2013.
John Canale – 2014
Len Maniccia – 2015