Story by Lourice Angie
While many people consider the Memorial Day weekend a kickoff to summer by gathering with family and friends and hosting BBQs, the significance of honoring fallen heroes has a very deep history. Americans began the practice just after the end of the Civil War. In 1868, General John A. Logan issued General Order Number 11, which designated May 30 as Memorial Day.
The date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any war and because it is the perfect time to find flowers in bloom. He declared it “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
A special Memorial Day service was held on Mon., May 28 at the Arthur Finnegan American Legion Post #1443 in Greenwood Lake. Memorial Day is wholeheartedly dedicated to those who perished while serving in the United States military. Every year, the last Monday in May becomes a sacred time as the community remembers fallen service men and women. Memorial ceremonies help honor and bring life to their ultimate sacrifice.
Some residents lend a helping hand to local Veteran organizations and hundreds of crosses and American flags are placed at Veteran gravesites throughout local cemeteries. In addition, American flags could be seen displayed on homes, boats and local businesses as a tribute to the nations fallen.
In Greenwood Lake, over 100 people, including Town officials, elected officials, dignitaries, first responders, local organizations, and community members attended the Memorial Day service. Veteran members spoke of the importance of honoring and respecting the memory of fallen comrades, especially those of Post 1443, so that the sacrifices made in the past were not in vain, and that the beloved country remains strong, brave and free in a challenging and dangerous world.
A small table set for one was a symbolic measure of the POWs and MIAs or comrades. The small table represented the one prisoner alone against his or her suppressors. The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of responding to the call of duty to their country. The single rose in a vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the nations freedom. A red ribbon on the vase is symbolic of the red ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousand who serve with unyielding determination.
A slice of lemon is a reminder of their bitter faces. The salt sprinkled on the plate is symbolic of the tears of the families. The inverted glass is a reminder that they cannot toast with anyone. The chair is empty because they are not here. The candle stands for light of hope. The American flag is a reminder that many of them may never return and may have paid the ultimate price for freedom.
Rev. Robert J. Sweeney, of Greenwood Lake, said a prayer for all of those who have died in service to their country and for the service men and women currently serving. He prayed for the American Legion, the U.S.A. and for each one of us.
“We bow our heads in your presence and thank you for this great country. We come before you to remember our heroes who served you in service to the great land. We propose to make this day a time to show honor to the men and women whose sacrifice has helped to keep us safe and free. With patriotism and thankfulness we remember our countries treasures lying in graves beneath our nations soil and the soils of lands far away. May their memory inspire us to be more grateful for the freedoms we enjoy. Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices,” said Rev. Robert J. Sweeney.
Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer said, “I have to say first how great it is that everybody came out today. All of the different organizations and so many people from the community; it means a lot to everyone, especially us. To all of the Veterans of American Legion Post 1443, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion, thank you, for you have proved to all of us that you have stood ready to sacrifice your life for our country and we thank God that you can join us here today to honor those who were not as fortunate as you. As a token of our appreciation for those who made the ultimate sacrifice we must honor them day in and day out, not only just today, but every day. We must live as good and patriotic Americans, loving our nation and doing all that we can to protect her good name,” said Dwyer.
Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said, “I was in Pine Island and Warwick this morning and I have to say the turnout here is amazing. It speaks volumes about this community as part of our Town. 666,441 – that’s the number of combat military personnel we’ve lost on all our conflicts. When you add the supply and support personnel, we’ve lost over 1.3 million to defend freedom for our nation. Those are the individuals we’re here today to remember, honor and thank for their service, but remembering them is not enough. So that their sacrifice has not been in vain, it is up to us. It is our duty to cherish, to defend and to exercise the rights that they sacrifice to give us the ability to enjoy. God bless their families who must bear the burden of not having them and we hope that God continues to bless this great nation that we live in.”
Commander Gerry Brewer, of the American Legion Post 1443 said, “Those of us in the American Legion view this as a day of solemn reflection in remembrance of our fallen comrades who have gone to their final post. The U.S. has never gone to war to seek territories or colonies; the only ground we ask for is a holy ground to bury our fallen. I recently read that there were 25 U.S. military cemeteries and 27 memorial monuments in 16 foreign countries. They hold the remains of 218,000 individuals who died there in WWI and WWII. The grounds are hallowed by the blood of heroes without regard to rank, creed or race. So I ask on this Memorial Day that everyday remember those who passed.”
The reading of the deceased from Post 1443 roll was then read by Theresa Williams, Richie McCannon, Barry White, and Commander Gerry Brewer. Memorial Services continued outdoors with the placing of ceremonial wreaths on the Veteran’s memorial monument and at the Scott A. Lynch monument, followed by the traditional rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.” A beautiful rendition of “God Bless America” was clearly heard through the speakers as the large crowd joined in song. The special commemorative service ended with a delicious BBQ and refreshments for all.