VFW honors fallen veterans in Niskayuna

School remembers graduates who died in Vietnam
Residents gather Friday for the 25th Annual Niskayuna High School & Former VFW Post #9132 Memorial Day Service.
Residents gather Friday for the 25th Annual Niskayuna High School & Former VFW Post #9132 Memorial Day Service.

NISKAYUNA — Memorial Day is far more than mattress sales and cookouts. On Friday, Niskayuna High School and former VFW Post #9121 hosted their 25th annual Memorial Day Service.

Wet, chilly weather moved the service — usually held in front of the school at the flagpole and veterans memorial — inside this year. 

The high school hosts the event every year in particular to remember and honor three veterans who died in the Vietnam War: Lt. Robert S. Cragin Jr., Lt. Vernon F. Hovey III and Private 1st Class Richard W. Starkey.

The high school choir, Bel Canto Voices, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Go Now in Peace.” Student Congress President Conor Graham read “Grass” by Carl Sandburg, as has been tradition.

Speakers honoring the sacrifice of their classmates in Vietnam and beyond proclaimed them heroes, giving their lives in service to the United States well before current high school students were even born.

Three flags, one for each of the Niskayuna graduates, were presented, as were two wreaths.

After the service indoors, attendees made their way outside for another presentation of flags and wreaths at the memorial.

“We’re here to honor veterans who gave their lives,” said VFW Post 357 Quartermaster Bill Kosek. “We come to make sure they’re not forgotten.”

Although declining membership and deaths have closed some VFW posts in recent years, including Niskayuna’s, the work of the remaining VFW organizations goes on.

“We work to ensure that today’s servicemember has access to their health and education benefits,” said Kosek.

Also recognized at the service were two members of the Niskayuna class of 2017 who will be entering military service next year. Martino An will attend West Point Military Academy, Dennis Robinson will go into the Army and Matthew Wilson will ship out with the Navy.

High School principal John Rickert read the names of 32 Niskayuna students who served our country and have since passed away. Among them were veterans who received diplomas as a part of Operation Recognition: In 2001, the school gave diplomas to veterans who went to war before finishing high school.

The audience rose to their feet at the close of the service as student Bryan Liu played the ever-haunting funeral anthem, “Taps.”

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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