Tuesday, May 27, 2014
By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Early Monday morning, before the barbecues were fired up and people welcomed the unofficial start of summer, tears were shed on the lawn of Veterans Memorial field and later at Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam as the community honored the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Local and state officials, veterans, residents and others first gathered before the memorial at Veterans Field first to remember fallen soldiers in wars past and present, like U.S Army Sgt. Shawn Michael Farrell II, of Accord, who died April 28, 2014, of wounds sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire. He was 24 years old.
"Shawn is one of so many who gave the ultimate life and sacrifice," Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said after talking about Farrell's life and military career. "There are no words I can convey to Shawn's family or other families who have lost loved ones to ease their pain. We can only assure them that their loved ones will never be forgotten and that the sacrifice that Shawn and so many men and women who have served and died while protecting our country will always be remembered and honored. That is what Memorial Day is about."
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, described the day as a reflection of those who have served the country with honor, valor and commitment. He reminded the crowd that the soldiers take the oath freely, a quote that is etched into the stone monument in the center of the field.
"As we gather here it is important to think of the service that was provided and continues to be provided by those who don the uniform," he said. "They etched a love story onto the panels of history of this great nation and they etched a legacy of greatness onto the hearts of every American. We need to constantly reflect on that love story because we are a people who are free."
The 50 or so people who dotted the lawn were somber when Mayor Ann Thane took the microphone and asked them to join her in a short exercise.
Thane asked the crowd to think of someone they loved with all their hearts who has died, someone who was their "reason to live." She asked them to think of all the wonderful moments that were shared and then the last time they saw their loved one, the moment they recalled the most, such as tousling someone's hair or noting how grown up they looked in that military uniform, the moment of "watching the headlights fade as they drove into that last bit of twilight before evening ... And then they were gone."
In the crowd, some quietly wiped tears while others inhaled shaky breaths as Thane continued her exercise, asking them to think of the loss in terms of the 1.1 million lost to war in the nearly 300 years the country has existed.
"It is the testament of each military monument, with names that have been scratched into stone that tells us all the purpose of this day," Thane said. "All too often we walk or drive past these monuments without thought to the spectacular gift of our everyday lives, so it is fitting that we gather as one to give thanks to each and every brave individual, both living and dead, who have served in the military."
The ceremony continued by awarding four individuals from Amsterdam with service awards, including World War II veteran Carlo "Carl" J. Zanella; New York Army National Guard Pvt. Phillip Anthony Barone, U.S Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Carriola, and U.S Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard M. Mancini, who died in action in 1967.
On Jan. 11, 1967, while a member of the aircrew operating on a covert mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, Mancini was killed in action with eight others. He was 30 years old and left behind his wife of five years and an 18-month-old son. His remains were not recovered until 2003.
"Petty officer Mancini's devotion skill, valor and sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces of the U.S. and reflect great credit upon, the naval service and the city of Amsterdam," Retired Lt. Col. and city historian Robert Von Hasseln said.
The ceremony closed with a benediction by Edward Majewski with honors rendered by American Legion Post 701, Sons of the American Legion, followed by the playing of "Taps."
Some in the crowd got in their cars to start their holiday while others traveled up the road to Green Hill Cemetery. There, the American Legion Auxiliary held a ceremony honoring the veterans in the Civil War and Spanish American War sections of the cemetery.
The ceremony including an invocation and honors presented by Post 701. followed by the playing of "Taps."
"We adorning the graves with poppies, which is a tradition for 701," American Legion Post 701 County Commander Mark Biasi said. "This is a little something to show that they are not forgotten.