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Friday, 22 May 2015 14:00

Touching Ceremony Planned

By | News
Fresh flowers and flags honor the memory of veterans buried at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. Fresh flowers and flags honor the memory of veterans buried at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. Photo by www.photosfromonhigh.com

 

Over 500 Expected at Memorial Day Ceremony at GBH Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery

SCHUYLERVILLE — On Monday May 25, the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery at 200 Duell Road in Schuylerville is expecting more than 500 people to attend the touching and inspirational Memorial Day ceremony planned for 11 a.m. This year, the event has special meaning as May 8 marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), celebrating the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Cemetery Director Howard Porter, Jr., who will be providing the introductory welcome to the event, encourages people to come early. “That way they can avoid some of the traffic,” he said. “There was a nice crowd on Veteran’s Day, so I’m sure there will be many more for Memorial Day. We’ll have chairs set out, but people are also welcome to bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on.” More than 225,000 veterans reside in the Albany/Saratoga area.

About 250 volunteers will be arriving Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to place 13,000 12”x18” flags on the graves in preparation of Monday’s event. Porter, who retired after 22 years from the U. S. Army as Master Sergeant (MSG), expressed his gratefulness for the numerous volunteers participating in placing flags on the graves this Saturday, most of whom are members of one or more of these organizations: Veterans of Lansingburg; Tri-County Council; Operation Adopt a Soldier; Marine Corps League; Patriot Guard Riders; Time Warner Cable; AUSA; and Blue Star Mothers. 

“We really count on our volunteers for these events,” he said. “It will take them about two hours, and they will return to do it again on Tuesday to remove the flags.” 

The Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery is New York State’s sixth national veteran’s cemetery and the 116th in the National Cemetery Administration. There are veterans, spouses, and children buried in the beautiful 351-acre site, and flags will be placed at all headstones, whether or not they are a veteran. “Because the spouse supported the veteran,” said Porter. 

There will be a national moment of remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time on Monday, but before then the National Cemetery will ring with song, speeches, a rifle salute, and the the USS Saratoga bell.

Visitors can expect a beautiful program, guided by Master of Ceremonies Josh Gilheany and including the national anthem sung by the Shenendehowa United Methodist Church Youth Choir led by Director Lauri Nair. Cassidy Sheehan, eighth grade student at Stillwater Middle School, will read “In Flanders Fields,” a poem written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. Robert Gibeault, Chaplain, American Legion Post 490, will lead the Invocation. 

For the second year in a row, two Stillwater High School Students will read essays they wrote about Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of VE Day. 

Joseph Stewart, Jr., is a junior at Stillwater and an Eagle Scout in Troop #4035. His grandfather was in the Navy and he has a cousin in the Army and another in the Marines, as well as two great-uncles who served. 

“I can understand the level of commitment given in service through stories I’ve heard from my family,” he said. “Events like this are important in letting soldiers and their families know everyone appreciates them.” 

Stewart is interested in a career in engineering, and is weighing several options in the field, including nuclear engineering possibly through the Navy.

Seth Marshall is a sophomore and a Life Scout in the same troop as Stewart, which is sponsored by Post 490 of the American Legion.  “I like writing,” he said. “My essay is about paying tribute to veterans. I love that I’m an American. I’ve had family in the military, and it means a lot to me to express what a great service they’ve done.” 

Marshall’s grandfather served in the Army, and one brother served in the Air Force and another in the Nation Guard Reserves and served in Afghanistan. In future he is considering becoming a physical therapist in a veteran’s hospital. 

The ceremony will include the posting of the colors, pledge of allegiance, and the Governor’s Proclamation which will be read by New York State Division of Veterans Affairs representative Paul Stote .  

The guest speaker will be George Covel, President of the Northeast Chapter of Korean War Veterans. He served in the 8th US Army Band and the Honor Guard as a SGT-E5 and was stationed at Seoul for a year. He was a Bandsman and a high-speed radio operator in service, and became a court reporter after discharge. He is a recipient of the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service award, the Korean Campaign Medal, and the UN Medal.

Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, District 43, will say a few words, and following her, John Meehan, a former major in the Air Force who served 20 years and is currently chair of the National Cemetery Support Committee, will recognize special guests, including those who are in the first few rows of the chairs set for the event, which will be reserved for disabled veterans, former prisoners of war, and other veterans.

The Saratoga Honor Guard Association will fire a rifle volley, followed by Taps, a rendition of God Bless America and Gibeault will return to provide the Benediction. Then there will be a retiring of the colors, which will conclude the ceremony. Guests are invited to place fresh flowers at the headstones of their loved ones at that time. Artificial flowers are not allowed. 

Schenectady Composite U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol and the National Cemetery Honor Guard assisted by the Grand Commandery Knights Templar will post, place at half-mast, raise and lower the colors during the ceremony. The Auxiliary members will also station themselves around the cemetery after the ceremony to be available throughout the day for questions and answers by visitors and family members.  

 

“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat The soldier’s last tattoo; No more on Life’s parade shall meet That brave and fallen few. On Fame’s eternal camping-ground Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead.” Bivouac Of The Dead, by Theodore O’Hara

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