More than 200 members of the Oneonta community assembled in Neahwa Park on Monday for a Memorial Day ceremony.
The ceremony followed a parade along Main Street that included the Oneonta Fire Department, the Leatherstocking District Pipe Band, the Oneonta High School band, Boy Scout Troop 23 and members of American Legion Post 259 and Auxiliary, American Legion Riders and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“This ceremony has been happening for as many years as anyone can remember,” said Les Grummons, who emceed the event. “Probably all the way back to the first Memorial Day, celebrated at Waterloo.”
Grummons led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance; the Oneonta High School band performed the National Anthem.
Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, and Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig each delivered remarks.
“This is a solemn day. This is a day where we remember those who gave what we appropriately call the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Salka said. “We live in a world now where we have come to expect the unexpected, but we always knew what we could count on, and that was our fighting men and women to be able to defend the freedoms we enjoy in this great country.”
“To all of our veterans that are here today and that are not here today in our community, I want to say thank you," Herzig said. "Thank you not only for your service, but for all you do when you come home to your community. You bring your leadership skills, your teamwork that you learned from your experiences back to building this community into a stronger and better community.”
Gary Ballard, past Legion commander, noted the bald eagle soaring overhead before the start of the ceremony.
“A high price has been paid. Those who have served, and those who are currently serving in the uniformed services of the United States, are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured, and may still be enduring, the agonies of pain, deprivation and imprisonment,” Ballard said.
“Memorial Day is the one day of the year in which we as a nation gather to remember and honor the more than 645,000 men and women who gave their lives since World War I. We need to recognize their service and sacrifice, not just one day, but every day of the year,” he continued. “To the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, who have experienced this loss and pain — please know that your sorrow and pride is shared by a grateful nation.”
Debbie Davis of the Daughters of the American Revolution read the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field,” from which the red poppy-wearing tradition originated. Oneonta High School class of 2019 valedictorian Aben Carrington read Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and fellow student and Naval Academy recruit Paul Zimmer read Gen. John Logan’s orders calling for the first observance of Memorial Day in 1868.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 23 laid wreaths at each of the plaques representing the branches of the United States Armed Forces, followed by a rifle salute by the American Legion Post 259 honor guard, “Taps” performed by two trumpet players from Oneonta High School and “Amazing Grace” by the Leatherstocking District Pipe Band.
“Today is a sad day and a proud day. And I think the people of Oneonta have many heroes to be proud of,” Herzig said.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.