PAY­ING TRIB­UTE

Vet­er­ans hon­ored dur­ing Me­mo­rial Day Cer­e­mony at Saratoga Na­tional Ceme­tery

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Glenn Grif­fith ggrif­[email protected]­gian.com

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> Hun­dreds of vol­un­teers paid their re­spect to the na­tion’s vet­er­ans on Satur­day by plac­ing an Amer­i­can flag in front of ev­ery vet­eran’s gravesite as part of a Me­mo­rial Day tra­di­tion at the Ger­ald B. H. Solomon Saratoga Na­tional Ceme­tery.

The flag dis­tri­bu­tion was the start of the ceme­tery’s an­nual Me­mo­rial Day Cer­e­mony; an event that rec­og­nizes the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice given to the na­tion by those vet­er­ans at fi­nal rest on its grounds.

The ceme­tery’s ad­min­is­tra­tion moved its an­nual Mon­day Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­mony to Satur­day this year to co­in­cide with the place­ment of the flags, a change from years past.

The for­mal Me­mo­rial Day Cer­e­mony which fol­lowed the flag place­ment was a late morn­ing event that in­cluded recorded mar­tial mu­sic, a ri­fle vol­ley, sev­eral can­non vol­leys, the ring­ing of the bell from the USS Saratoga, mov­ing live mu­sic, and speeches from sev­eral of the area’s elected of­fi­cials. But it was the plac­ing of the flags; that in­di­vid­ual mo­ment of re­spect given each ser­vice mem­ber at their gravesite that was the most mov­ing part of the day.

As the groups of vol­un­teers, from young­sters to grand­par­ents, went about the busi­ness of putting the flags out, one mil­i­tary vet­eran in each group read the in­scrip­tion for each vet­eran and gave the de­ceased a well-earned salute.

“I feel good,” said Boy Scout Bran­don Gar­rand of Troop 54 in Burnt Hills. “I feel we did our good daily turn.”

When asked to look at all the gravesites with their flags flut­ter­ing in the breeze, Gar­rand spoke from the heart.

“It makes me feel ap­pre­ci­a­tion,” he said. “With­out them we wouldn’t be here. It gives you some­thing to think about when you put a flag down.”

One of the more emo­tional sights dur­ing the morn­ing cer­e­mony was the en­trance of the Pa­triot Guard Rid­ers. The group of around 40 marched in for­ma­tion to the gravesite of Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent Tech. Sgt. Peter J. Da­lessan­dro a World War II U.S. Army vet­eran who died Oct. 5, 1997.

The busi­ness of plac­ing of flags for that sec­tion of the ceme­tery came to a halt as the Guard’s leader read aloud how Da­lessan­dro put his life at risk mul­ti­ple times in­clud­ing call­ing in a mor­tar bar­rage on top of his po­si­tion in or­der to save mem­bers of his pla­toon while he bat­tled Ger­mans in a World War II fire­fight.

When the de­scrip­tion of the ac­tion was con­cluded mem­bers of the Pa­triot Guard Rid­ers gave Da­lessan­dro a snappy salute and placed a blue Medal of Honor flag at his gravesite.

The late-morn­ing por­tion of the day’s cer­e­mony was more for­mal with an in­vo­ca­tion, post­ing of col­ors, the pledge of al­le­giance, the Na­tional An­them, a fly­over from a C130, and re­marks by U.S. Rep. Elise Ste­fanik, R-Schuylervi­lle, U.S. Paul Tonko, D-Am­s­ter­dam, state Sen. Daphne Jor­dan, R-Half­moon, and Assem­bly­woman Car­rie Wo­erner D-Round Lake.

The day’s key­note ad­dress was given by Liza Pozze­bon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ceme­tery op­er­a­tions for the Na­tional Ceme­tery Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In their brief re­marks Ste­fanik and Jor­dan looked at the his­tory be­hind Me­mo­rial Day and how im­por­tant it is to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fices made by the vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

“I am truly hon­ored to be here with you on th­ese hal­lowed grounds as we join to­gether to honor the bravest; those who have fallen while de­fend­ing our na­tion,” Ste­fanik said. “For any­one here who has lost a friend or a fam­ily mem­ber in com­bat, it is their courage and sac­ri­fice that we join to­gether to rec­og­nize.”

Jor­dan looked at the re­sults of those sac­ri­fices.

“So many brave souls of our armed forces have made this ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice so that we may be free; so our ideas and ideals re­main; so our shores and soil may be pro­tected so Amer­ica may con­tinue,” Jor­dan said. “We walk in their foot­steps, cher­ish their mem­ory and give thanks for their courage. We re­mem­ber their names and honor their ser­vice.”

Tonko too, took a look back at what started out as Dec­o­ra­tion Day and even­tu­ally be­came Me­mo­rial Day. Not­ing the Gold Star Moth­ers and Gold Star Fam­i­lies in the front row of fold­ing chairs in front of him Tonko noted those seated in those chairs were vis­i­ble re­minds of the painful con­se­quences of war.

Me­mo­rial Day, he said, “is the essence of that bea­con of hope to free­domlov­ing peo­ple around the world. This is a day to re­mind us of those pa­tri­ots who are beloved, who loved this na­tion; pa­tri­ots who loved this na­tion be­yond self, pa­tri­ots who un­der­stood they would fight for a cause greater than them­selves. It is they who have en­abled us to shine more bril­liantly, more boldly as that bea­con of hope to re­mind all other na­tions that it is the fight for free­dom that has pre­vailed in this great United States of Amer­ica.”

Wo­erner used her re­marks to vividly show how vet­er­ans’ ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice while in com­bat has deep fa­mil­ial ef­fects. Cit­ing a statis­tic that showed 35 Amer­i­cans had died in com­bat sit­u­a­tions over­seas since she was at the cer­e­mony one year ago, Wo­erner noted that the 33 men and two women killed in ac­tion ranged in age from 19 to 43, and left be­hind 16 spouses, 36 chil­dren and three grand­chil­dren.

“They grieve their loss and face a fu­ture with­out a fa­ther or mother to guide them,” she said.

Sit­ting in the sec­ond row of seats was Robert En­gel, 94, one of four World War II vet­er­ans at the ser­vice. A na­tive of the Bronx, En­gel served in the Se­abees with the U.S. Navy and spent 37 years at GE in Sch­enec­tady as a ma­chin­ist.

“As far as I know there are just three mem­bers of my bat­tal­ion still alive; I’m here to honor them and to honor all th­ese peo­ple who are here hon­or­ing the vet­er­ans,” he said. “In 1976 I had a din­ner for the bat­tal­ion at the Turf Inn and we had 200 peo­ple, guys with their wives, and now there’s only three of us left. I don’t want any hon­ors. I’m just here to­day for those of us who are still here.”

GLENN GRIF­FITH - MEDIANEWS GROUP

Erin Knight, cen­ter, a US Navy vet­eran, salutes af­ter plac­ing an Amer­i­can flag on a vet­eran’s grave at Saratoga Na­tional Ceme­tery Satur­day. With Knight are her chil­dren, twins, Chloe, 8. and Ethan, 8, left and right.

GLENN GRIF­FITH - MEDIANEWS GROUP

Gre­gory Tomik of Troop 54 in Burnt Hills lines up a row of flags his troop has placed Satur­day in the Ger­ald B. Solomon Saratoga Na­tional Ceme­tery

GLENN GRIF­FITH - MEDIANEWS GROUP

Vet­er­ans’ gravesites in the Ger­ald B.H. Solomon Saratoga Na­tional Ceme­tery adorned with Amer­i­can flags for Me­mo­rial Day 2019

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