Saratoga County

Sun shines as families gather at Saratoga National Cemetery for Memorial Day event

Tara Hulette of Colonie sits at her father's gravesite with her son, Ryder, left, husband, Nick and daughter, Savannah at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville on Saturday after the annual Memorial Day ceremony.
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Tara Hulette of Colonie sits at her father's gravesite with her son, Ryder, left, husband, Nick and daughter, Savannah at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville on Saturday after the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

SCHUYLERVILLE — The weather forecast called for overcast skies, with a chance of scattered thunderstorms, perhaps to match the tears from loved ones that chose Saturday morning to honor their own veterans in observance of Memorial Day.

Instead, as those veterans were honored, the skies cleared and the sun shined upon the hundreds of friends, families and community members at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville who were gathering after a two-year hiatus.

“People are ready to get out, they are ready to feel the sun on their face and feel the fresh air,” W. Scott Lamb, Director of G.B.H.S. Saratoga National Cemetery, said. “They’re ready to do things like this — be involved in parades, be involved in ceremonies, clap, sing, enjoy life, thank a veteran and think of what Memorial Day is and be a part of it.”

The annual event, now hosted on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, welcomed veterans from all branches, their families and loved ones to gather to remember those who served.

Bill Schaff, of Brunswick, the state captain of the New York Patriot Guard Riders, gathered with other members and veterans standing with American flags for the ceremony.

“We recognize and pay respect for the life and service of all the veterans and this is a day we can do that collectively for all of those veterans not only interred here, but we memorialize them all across the nation,” Schaff said. 

Schaff said his group also installed small gold star flags on the graves of veterans killed in action buried at the Saratoga site.

The Memorial Day ceremony is an annual event for retired U.S. Army corporal Valerie Perez from Gansevoort — this year was the first time she attended without her father, veteran Manuel Perez, who died last year at 96.

She gave her father some credit for the forecasted rain staying away from the annual event.

“He despised getting wet,” Perez said with a laugh. “Those rainy days he would ask ‘Do you think maybe they’re going to cancel that?’ No Dad, they’re not going to cancel it.”

The ceremony, the presenting of the colors, singing of “God Bless America,” the firing of the military volley and the playing of “Taps” brought back memories for many, including Perez.

“I can remember hearing ‘Taps’ the first time [in basic training], first night, 11 o’clock in the barracks,” Perez said. “It brings you home and makes you realize that you are so far away, at least that is what it does for me.”

Tara Hulette, of Colonie, is a frequent visitor to Saratoga National Cemetery, sitting in front of her the grave of her father, Kenneth L. Coons, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Korea.

“I was daddy’s little girl,” Hulette said. “We come here for every holiday. I try to come up as much as I can. I usually spend an hour or two here.”

She was joined by her son, Ryder, daughter, Savannah and husband, Nick.

On Saturday she was not alone, joining others in the ceremony and time after to visit those that are interred there.

“It was nice to be able to see it virtually, but being able to do things in person is so much better because the experience is so much better,” Hulette said. “Hearing taps, listening to the gun salute in person, seeing everybody in person is a somber experience, it’s such a surreal experience.”

Lamb, a Navy veteran, summed up what he hoped that Saturday provided to the attendees.

“You can still get your barbeques in, can still get to pop the top of your favorite beverage and you can do all that, but take a moment out of the weekend and remember what Memorial Day weekend really is,” Lamb said. “I think we did that today.”

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