Schenectady County

Memorial Day services recall Capital Region’s fallen veterans

On Monday, Jim Wilson remembered his brother-in-law.
The 148th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony to honor veterans was held in Vale Cemetery on Monday morning.  Members of the DAV Chapter #88 salute the graves of veterans after wreaths were laid.
The 148th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony to honor veterans was held in Vale Cemetery on Monday morning. Members of the DAV Chapter #88 salute the graves of veterans after wreaths were laid.

On Monday, Jim Wilson remembered his brother-in-law.

Dexter David Thwaits was only 23 when he was killed in Luzon in the Philippines in 1945 during World War II.

Schenectady’s Wilson, a Navy veteran and past district commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, honored brother and sister veterans at the Memorial Day service at Vale Cemetery in Schenectady.

“One word — remembrance,” Wilson said, of his participation in the event. “We have to remember all these people.”

About 150 people, many in veteran service organization caps, attended the 148th annual ceremony at Vale. They said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem and participated in a moment of silence. They watched veterans groups place a total of 10 flowered wreaths in the Vale veterans’ plot. They saw Boy Scouts distribute poppies on graves, all marked with American flags.

Veterans groups representing all military branches participated. Lt. Col. Edward C. Bonk of the New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists, said Memorial Day is a day to celebrate lives.

“General Patton once said it’s foolish and wrong to mourn men and women who died,” Bonk said in the program’s main address. “Rather, we should thank God such men lived. I thought that was a great quote by General Patton.”

Bonk asked people to think about a soldier’s experience.

“Just imagine for a second … what these veterans must have went through fighting a battle overseas,” he said. “You have a guy running up a hill knowing he’s going to probably die, saving his comrades and being shot and killed in the process. Or a guy who sees a live grenade, doesn’t think twice, jumps on it to save his squad. It’s just amazing heroism. Bullets flying all around and we survived, yet your buddy dies.

“I can’t imagine the horror these people went through,” Bonk added. “These were brave and unselfish heroes that put their own country and fellow man before their own lives.”

Floyd Hunt of East Greenbush, who served in the Navy from 1967 through 1989, wore his Navy whites. Like other veterans, he understands what Memorial Day stands for. “It’s to honor the veterans who served this country,” he said. “We can go to church where we want to, we can say what we want to, we can vote for who we want.”

Gloria Kishton of Schenectady attended the service out of tradition — and family duty.

“My dad [World War II veteran Mark Kishton] was a vet, and I used to bring him here,” Kishton said. “I came here to honor him and other vets.”

Schenectady’s Denise Townsel said her father, Placid Duheme, served during the Korean War. She believes people must observe Memorial Day services to remember the cost of freedom. “So we can live the way we do,” she said.

Retired Brig. Gen. Daniel Bradt of Niskayuna also paid respects to fallen soldiers. “We have a lot of friends who didn’t come home from the wars,” he said. Patricia Bradt, a Navy veteran, attended with her husband.

“I think people should honor those who served,” she said, adding that she believed the turnout should have been larger. “I just wish there was more pride instilled.”

Services at Vale concluded with a firing squad salute and bugle renditions of “Taps.” Many in the crowd then attended a brief service at Veteran’s Park in downtown Schenectady. A roll call of deceased veterans — each name marked with the clang of a bell — placements of wreaths, a moment of silence and a second gun salute were among the highlights.

Navy veteran Kurt von Maucher, who lives in Scotia and is county adjutant for the American Legion in Schenectady County, was glad to see one local business change its message from “Happy Memorial Day” to “Memorial Day — Remember a Veteran.”

“Happy Veterans Day, yes,” von Maucher said after the Veteran’s Park service. “Happy Memorial Day, no. You don’t have joy over the friends you lost.”

Robert E. Becker Jr., past national commander of the Marine Corps League and master of ceremonies for both programs, was encouraged by attendance at both sites. “We’re getting more and more veterans organizations, some of their young ones are coming out,” Becker said. “That’s the future of our organizations.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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