AMSTERDAM — After 54 years participating in the color guard he started, Dennis Rogers still feels privileged to help honor fallen service members each Memorial Day.
“It touches your heart and soul,” said Rogers, captain of the color guard for American Legion John Wyszomirski Post 701, and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “We’re very touched and very proud, all of us, that we’re able to do this and we’re going to do this as long as God gives us permission, and hopefully it will continue down the road.”
On Monday, Rogers led members of the guard through the three volley salute to veterans accompanied by “Taps” at the Civil War monument in Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam during the Memorial Day service organized by the American Legion, with support from the Legion Auxiliary and local officials.
While Memorial Day is often considered to be the kick off to summer, William Liberis, commander of the local American Legion post and fourth district commander, reminded the roughly two dozen residents in attendance that it is not a day about picnics or barbecues.
“It’s a day that we remember these people that gave their lives, that did not come back,” said Liberis, a retired senior master sergeant with 30 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. “They didn’t come home to their families. They couldn’t have a barbeque.”
Members of the American Legion spent the morning honoring fallen service members at sites around the city, including the Spanish American War monument in Green Hill Cemetery, the Vietnam War memorial at Wilbur H. Lynch Middle School, St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, in order to honor World War I veteran John Wyszomirski, and their own headquarters.
“The flag always flies because of the last breaths of the soldiers before they died,” Liberis said. “They’re the ones that did the supreme sacrifice of dying for their country and that’s why we honor them today.”
Miniature American flags surrounding the Civil War monument were among the banners at the graves of over 800 veterans within Green Hill Cemetery, in order to remember and honor their sacrifice, placed by community volunteers and members of the American Legion.
“Last Saturday, we came and we put the flags on the graves of the veterans and it’s hard to understand the multitude of the veterans just in this beautiful cemetery,” Montgomery County Legislature Chairman Robert Purtell said. “We can’t forget them.”
Although their friends and family may have long passed on, Mayor Michael Cinquanti said yearly efforts to ensure that no local veterans are forgotten show the community’s enduring gratitude to its service members.
“Our beloved hometown has produced some incredible tales of courage, valor and sacrifice in defense of our freedom and the freedom of people around the world. Those Amsterdam heroes are solemnly remembered here today,” Cinquanti said.
Attendees wore red poppies handed out by American Legion Auxiliary President Doreen Lavigna as reminders of the blood shed by service members in defense of the nation.
Rev. Kent McHeard acknowledged those who laid down their lives to protect the country while delivering the invocation and benediction.
“We thank you for the men and the women who paid the ultimate price of their lives in service for this great country,” McHeard said. “Let us never forget their sacrifice. Let us never forget their memory.”
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.