HALFMOON, N.Y. — More than 100 residents of southern Saratoga County took time from Monday’s holiday to join with members of American Mohawk Post 1450 in a Memorial Day ceremony that recognized the service to the nation made by its military veterans and their families.
The annual event was held under the midday sun in a cloudless sky at the Post pavilion, 275 Grooms Road, Halfmoon.
Post Commander John “Lippy” Lepine was asked why the organizers hold the event each year.
“We’re a fraternal organization that advocates for veterans’ programs and tries to take care of veterans, so we do this to remember those members of the military who have fallen in service to the country and never came back as well as to remember the veterans who did,” he said. “They’re the reason we’re all here. We feel this is a good way to bring the community together in a patriotic way.”
The day’s tradition’s included the posting of the country’s colors, a rifle salute, the Pledge of Allegiance, a soloist singing the National Anthem, the laying of wreaths in tribute to the departed, a community sing of God Bless America, and the playing of Taps.
Also included was the POW/MIA ceremony, a solemn recognition of military personnel still missing in action or held against their will in far off lands. The ceremony includes a table set for one, a white tablecloth representing the purity of intentions, a single red rose in a vase that symbolizes the blood that’s been shed and the faith of those awaiting the serviceman or woman’s return, a slice of lemon represents a bitter fate, and the salt represents countless tears that have been shed by their families. As the significance of each item was noted, a bell was rung as a counterpoint.
Those who attended the event heard speeches from three town supervisors. Kevin Tollisen represented the Town of Halfmoon, Philip Barrett represented the Town of Clifton Park and Brigadier General, retired, Ed Kinowski represented the Town of Stillwater.
Tollisen welcomed the crowd to the town by acknowledging the centennial anniversary of the American Legion. When discussing the importance of the day, he quoted former President Ronald Reagan from one of his Memorial Day speeches.
“In speaking about the greatness of America and all the unique opportunities, we as Americans have, President Reagan said, ‘Freedom and the dignity of individuals have been more available and assured more than in any other place on earth right here in America. The Price for freedom has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price,'” Tollisen said.
In his remarks, Barrett discussed the beacon of hope that the U.S. offers the rest of the world.
“We all want to make a difference in the lives of people,” he said. “But a lot of veterans have already made a difference in our lives and they continue to do so long past their service. So never let us give up the fight to make sure America remains a place where people want to come to study, to live, to pursue their own American dream that we have the benefit of pursuing because we were born here.”
Kinowski reached back to his service in the Middle East for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to add power to his words as he described what the day means.
“It’s a party, a celebration and we should keep our eye on that because all the gentlemen and ladies who gave their lives won’t be having those parties and celebrations so we have to have them for them,” he said. “Those people have given all for the love of country, so we can enjoy these freedoms every day.”
Kinowski went on to describe how each individual can do their part to make the country a better place.
“If you ask what it is you can do, I offer a few suggestions,” he said. “For our fallen, continue to honor Memorial Day and support your military. Make your voices heard by voting. And on behalf of the veterans’ efforts, think about your country as often as possible and what you can do to make it stronger in actions and words. We owe the continuance of our freedom to our military personnel, wherever they serve."