Under sparkling clear skies and summerlike temperatures Monday, hundreds of people lined the streets for the city’s annual Memorial Day parade, paying homage to the war dead and those who continue to serve today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The widow of an Army pilot who was killed in April 2006 when his helicopter was downed south of Baghdad led the parade.
Grand Marshal Katie Moshier, whose husband Capt. Tim Moshier died in Iraq, carried an American flag as she walked the parade route next to Albany County Executive Mike Breslin, a Vietnam veteran.
Moshier, of Bethlehem, said it was a huge honor to be chosen as the parade’s grand marshal. “It’s an emotional time here,” she said from the parade’s reviewing stand on Washington Avenue. “I was walking down the street and started remembering why we’re here. This is what we stand for.”
Since her husband’s death, Moshier has devoted her own life to improving the lot of soldiers and Marines, those currently serving and those who are veterans.
She works with STRIDE Adaptive Sports, which helps disabled soldiers and Marines and their families.
Moshier said Memorial Day is not a political day, but a personal one, and she urged everyone to take a moment to embrace a soldier, a veteran, a Gold Star Mother or a child.
Moshier said her late husband would have been very proud of her. “I wish it was him and not me, but I can do this and represent him.”
Moshier said she was very happy with the large crowds that turned out for the parade and said Capital Region residents have always shown their support, which is part of the reason she moved back to the area.
The parade began at Partridge Street and went down Central Avenue. All along the parade route, the crowds, sometimes four deep, cheered as the bands, Gold Star Mothers and different military color guards marched past.
Ed Morrissey of Clifton Park, who served in the Marine Corps from 1960 to 1965, sat on a bench near the parade route and said it’s an important way to show respect for all the armed services. “They deserve the honor from local citizens,” said Morrissey.
“It’s an honor for me to pay respect to these guys. It’s an honor for me to have served when I did. I did what I had to do,” he said.
Mayor Jerry Jennings, who spoke at a ceremony at Lafayette Park near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial after the city’s parade, said the day is about “recognizing the men and women who fought for our country and went the extra step so we have freedom.”
“Let’s continue to support them when they do come home,” said Jennings.
Breslin said the individuals who serve in the military are “truly standing in our stead” and he said its important to “memorialize so many who have done so much for us.”
Joseph Pollicino, chairman of the Joint Veterans Committee of Albany, said he personally knew many of the men from the area who died in the Vietnam War and whose names are etched on the monument at Lafayette Park.
Pollicino’s granddaughter sang the national anthem at the ceremony and it made Pollicino pause. He told the crowd he was one of the lucky ones who survived the war and was able to return home, get married, start a family and have grandchildren. Others were not so fortunate, he said.
“This doesn’t get easier as we get older,” he said. “We just get more emotional. No one should ever forget their sacrifice.”
For Jean Van Epps of Rensselaer and her grandson Justin Brown, it’s an annual tradition to go to the Memorial Day Parade. “If it wasn’t for the men and women who serve, we wouldn’t have freedom,” said Van Epps.
The message of sacrifice that those who died in battle had made reverberated throughout the morning at ceremonies and parades throughout the Capital Region, including:
u A ceremony in Vale Cemetery in Schenectady with a presentation of wreaths
u A program dedicated to county veterans at Schenectady County Airport’s Veterans Memorial Park
u A parade with 70 units in downtown Gloversville, followed by a service at the Prospect Hill Cemetery at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument
u A parade from the L.J. Hand Farm Center on state Route 161 and to the intersection of state Route 30A and Logtown Road in Glen
u Broadalbin’s annual Memorial Day parade, which featured the Broadalbin-Kenyetto Engine Co.’s 1934 classic Chevrolet-Sanford firetruck
u Amsterdam’s parade, which began at the post office on Church Street and ended at the Bergen Memorial on East Main Street
u Services in Gideon Park, Charlton; Town Hall in Rotterdam; Riverside Veterans’ Park, Stillwater; and at the Mohawk American Legion Post 1450 in Halfmoon.