Remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day at Carry the Load
LAKE PLACID — Shortly after 3 p.m. on a blue sky Sunday at Mid’s Park, Amy Quinn took several minutes to relay an earnest message from Melina Pepe Nolte. The goal was to relay the true meaning of Memorial Day.
On a holiday weekend when locals and tourists alike descended on the Adirondack area to barbecue and vacation, Quinn read Nolte’s 400-word statement from the bandshell at Mid’s Park. It told of the cost she and her family has paid after her husband U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicholas S. Nolte died at 25 years old as the result of injuries sustained in enemy action in Al Anbar Province.
Nolte’s death occurred 12-and-half years ago. Eight years prior, Melina met Nick here in this village when he helped to guard then-President Bill Clinton for the president’s 50th birthday. They later also lived in Keene for a time.
With Lake Placid holding a special place in her heart, Melina Nolte spoke to this village through Quinn.
“Sometimes I wonder if we have grown numb to the words ‘fallen hero,'” Quinn read from her iPhone, “or what they really mean. They aren’t just numbers or faces on the news, in the papers, engraved on walls. They are sons who grew up and died so young that they never saw their own children, or husbands that were one half of a couple that never got to grow old together, someone’s siblings that were never known by their nieces and nephews.
“We have just one day a year out of 365 to come together as a country to remember this fact,” she continued. “When the sacrifice is overlooked and the point of Memorial Day is missed, I find it very difficult.”
Nolte’s family members from Keene — including nieces and nephews who never knew him — were some of the dozens of people who walked and paddled around the perimeter of Mirror Lake Saturday as part of the third annual Carry The Load. The event is a walk held in cities across the country dedicated to remembering military members, police officers and firefighters who have died. Sunday was the third time it was held in Lake Placid. Those taking part stepped off on the hour from Mid’s Park, at times in between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Quinn, her husband Andrew and Stuart Hemsley of Lake Placid coordinated the event at Mid’s Park. Throughout the day when they weren’t marching around Mirror Lake, the trio was stationed at Mid’s Park playing music and sharing stories like that of Nolte’s of heroism and sacrifice.
At Mid’s Park, people shared who they were walking for by writing down the names of their loved ones on a Carry The Load dry-erase board which asked, “Who are you carrying?”
Trish Friedlander and Karen Armstrong walked for W. John Friedlander, a former member of the Navy. Tiffany Lamay carried for her brother-in-law Shawn Martin of the United States Marine Corps who died on June 20, 2001. And Quinn wrote that she was there walking for Sgt. Nick Nolte.
“And all those who have no one left to remember them,” Quinn wrote.
At the conclusion of the event, Hemsley took to the bandshell stage during an intermission of the Carry The Load concert performed by Jim and Gwen Tracy of Old Forge. Hemsley asked the dozens of people in Mid’s Park to pay their respects to the those lost by holding a moment of silence. He then shared a message from Dill Driscoll, a man who spent a lot of time growing up in the Adirondacks and a co-founder of the Carry The Load national march. It began May 2 in West Point and Seattle and concluded Saturday with tens of thousands of people descending on Dallas to walk for 23 hours and 20 minutes.
In particular, Driscoll asked Lake Placid to memorialize those who died in the Manchester Arena bombing earlier this week.
“The definition of a hero is anyone that does the right thing, and you are all heroes being here,” Hemsley read, “and we know that’s not easy. For this we are thankful.
“As we stepped off this morning for our third year event,” Hemsley continued, “(Driscoll) wanted us to take a moment to think of the children of Manchester who were senselessly killed.
“Godspeed today and every day.”