The Memorial Day parade in Ballston Spa Saturday proved to be a time for lessons for village resident Robert David and his 4-year-old son Robert Jr.
When Robert Jr. tossed a small American flag he had been waving to the ground, his father acted fast.
“Hey, pick that up,” he told his son sternly. “You don’t ever throw the flag to the ground.”
The boy picked up the flag. He didn’t drop it again.
David said he brought his family to the parade this year to show his children the importance of supporting local institutions like the police department and the fire department, as well the U.S. military and the many sacrifices made by soldiers, sailors, the Air Force and the Marines.
“We’re here to support our town and the veterans that we have,” he said. “I used to be a Boy Scout when I was younger, and I was always taught to respect our flag, so for me it’s important to show that respect to my kids so they can learn it.”
The Davids were part of a large crowd that came out for the Memorial Day parade in Ballston Spa on Saturday. There were many children in the streets eager to pick up candy tossed by the parade participants, and there were many somber adults taking the occasion to pay tribute to veterans past and present.
Town of Ballston resident Bill Oliver, who said he was a chaplain for a local Cub Scout troop, wore a white T-shirt, blue overalls and a red scarf Saturday in honor of the flag. He said it’s always been important to him to pay tribute to veterans on Memorial Day.
“I’ve got friends and neighbors who have died, relatives that have died in the wars. I have family that’s currently in the service,” he said.
The parade route ran from Milton Avenue to Front Street to Low Street. Marchers included local police and fire department units, the Ballston Spa High School marching band, American Foreign Legion Post 234, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 358, the Gold Star Mothers and the Blue Star Mothers, local Cub and Boy Scout troops, the Adirondack Chapter of Korean War Veterans, the Albany-Saratoga Submarine Veterans and a local Navy nuclear power training unit.
Politicians marching included Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga and U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls.
Becca O’Neil, a Ballston Spa High School student, said she comes out to the parade every year, but thinks Memorial Day is not always appreciated by young people.
“I think some people do, but I think some people, like, forget about it,” she said.
Anthony Kiefer, an enlisted man in the Navy stationed locally, said he could have chosen to march in the parade but decided not to. He said he isn’t sure how to feel during Memorial Day.
“I don’t feel like I’ve really done much to deserve people’s support, because I haven’t left the training command yet, but I have friends who have done things and it’s nice to see them get support.”
Navy Lt. Commander Alexei Powlowski served as the grand marshal. He echoed Kiefer’s sentiments during a ceremony after the parade that honored all of the veterans from Ballston Spa who died in conflicts from the Spanish-American War to the Korean War.
“Sometimes when I’m walking around in uniform someone thanks me for my service and inevitably that person thanks me for the sacrifices that I’ve made during my time in the Navy. I’m not sure how to respond to that, because I don’t feel like I’ve made that many sacrifices,” he said. “Being a Naval officer and driving a submarine is something I wanted to do for a long, long time, and I don’t think it’s a sacrifice to follow a dream, especially considering the real hardships that others have experienced and continued to experience from their service. I feel that even more today when we honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.”
Powlowski went on to tell several stories of American military personnel who died bravely in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After the ceremony, which included three volleys from an honor guard and the playing of taps, Congressman Murphy spoke to several of his constituents about military issues including his recent vote to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals serving in the military.
“I voted to repeal the statutory rule on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ this week and the military is reviewing how to implement that in a way that’s not discriminatory that allows our gay and lesbian soldiers to serve. I think in December we’re going to see [Defense] Secretary Robert Gates come back with a plan for how to move us forward,” Murphy said. “This is something that I talked to a lot of military leaders about. It’s obviously a civil rights issue.”
Murphy said he’s pleased with the progress of the U.S. strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’m excited that we are getting people home from Iraq. We’ve got the troop numbers there down a lot. More people are coming home every day. We’re seeing the government in Iraq take more responsibility for their security and that’s a great step,” he said. “There is still a lot more work going on. I was over there this year and I was happy to see we’re making some progress with the civilian and military folks working together. We’re working closely with the Afghan leaders and it seems like we have a real plan for where we are going.”