Saranac Lakers commemorate Memorial Day with ceremony, parade
SARANAC LAKE — Sacrifice, service and future. These were three words that the guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Saranac Lake, retired Navy Captain Joe Capalbo, hoped to highlight as he spoke to a gathered crowd at Riverside Park.
“Obviously, as a country, we have lots of issues, especially right now,” he said. “But until you see how people live in other parts of the world, and how they’re treated by their governments, you don’t fully appreciate what we have and how important it is to protect it.”
Speakers in Saranac Lake’s Memorial Day ceremony Monday underscored what it means to serve in the military, what it means to honor those who have lost their lives in war and what it means to be a family member mourning that loss.
“So many have died for this day, for rights and freedom,” said Ray Boula of the Veterans Memorial Association, which includes the village’s American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters.
Veterans also touched on the importance of supporting troops with wounds of war — physical wounds or otherwise — after they return home.
“I know everybody has different beliefs and ideals about life; all I’m asking is that you try to understand and respect the American solider. He’s out there, putting his life on the line,” Boula said. “We have a lot of American soliders coming back awith a lot of different problems. … A lot of these soldiers have too much pride to ask for help. All I’m doing is asking, if you’ve seen an American soldier who’s having a problem, try to point him in the right direction.
“There’s a lot of organizations out there that are ready to help,” he added.
As he spoke of the future of the military, Capalbo noted that since the elimination of the draft, the number of service members has declined and multiple overseas deployments for troops has become the norm. He added that only a fraction of Congress members have served in the military.
“Only two of our last six presidents have been veterans,” he said, referring to George H.W. and George W. Bush. “Representation of military members and families in our state and federal government matters. It’s important that we elect representatives who understand and appreciate the military and veterans issues. Remember, it’s not your military leaders who send your loved ones off to war; it’s politicians.”
The annual ceremony at Riverside Park, which followed a parade down Broadway and Main Street, was led by the Rev. Eric Olsen, a retired colonel and chaplain with the New York Army National Guard. It included an invocation and benediction led by VFW Post 3357 Chaplain Jimmy Law, a rendition of the national anthem by the Saranac Lake High School marching band, the Pledge of Allegiance, speeches by Capalbo and Boula, and the laying of a wreath at the veterans memorial by village police Officer Ashley Pittman and Mayor Jimmy Williams. Following the ceremony, there was a barbecue at the veterans club.
Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, began in 1868 as a tradition of decorating and preserving the graves of Union soldiers who died while fighting in the Civil War. In 1968 Memorial Day became a nationally recognized holiday honoring all of those who have lost their lives in U.S. military service.