POUGHKEEPSIE – Gold Star families joined veterans, elected officials, and community members at a dusk service on the Walkway over the Hudson on Sunday to honor those service members that made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.
Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart welcomed an estimated 1,000 spectators to the ninth annual flag-retiring service at the center of the span over the river. She thanked everyone for helping to make the event a success, including the American Legion Pleasant Valley-Millbrook Post 739, which has been diligent in organizing the service.
Marc Coviello, Dutchess County director of Veterans Services told those gathered that the holiday weekend is not just for parties but rather an opportunity to honor those who have perished. “It’s for our service members that died fighting for our nation, for our freedoms, for our liberty; the greatest men and women on the face of the earth.”
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro told the history of Memorial Day, having been started by politician and Union Army General John Logan, who led the charge for a day to remember fallen military members.
It was originally known as Decoration Day where citizens would visit the graves of the fallen to place wreaths to honor the dead. “Today, tonight, and tomorrow we recognize those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Molinaro who also invited the audience to repay the debt to the fallen. “Perhaps we might use the freedom that we enjoy to be better and kinder,” said the county’s leader.
Ulster County Executive-elect Patrick Ryan, a graduate of the United States Military Academy in 2004, recalled his graduation day. “I raised my right hand and took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution,” said Ryan. “I am one of 57 million Americans who have taken that same oath knowing that they may become one who will make the ultimate sacrifice.” The leader of Ulster County implored those gathered to tell the story of selfless service made by the service members who died in order that everyone has a better understanding of the sacrifices made.
Members of the American Legion retired the American flag flying high atop the Walkway and then replaced it with a new one as Taps was played by representatives of Buglers Across America.
The ceremony included two performances by United States Army Master Sergeant Mary Kay Messenger, who sang both the National Anthem and God Bless America.
Prior to the close of the ceremony, Coviello reminded everyone that “at this moment, 18- and 19-year-old young men and women are walking through Afghanistan and Iraq. “They might not come home,” said the combat experienced Army soldier.
At the conclusion of the service, Waldstein-Hart encouraged everyone to use the light on their cell phones to add a little light to the service. Hundreds of lights brightened up the twilight sky on the Walkway.