Niskayuna High School students were encouraged Friday to remember three men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Lt. Robert S. Cragin Jr. of the class of 1962, Lt. Vernon F. Hovey III of the class of 1964 and Pfc. Richard W. Starkey of the class of 1965 were killed in action during the Vietnam War.
“We hope you will remember there are three gentlemen that gave their lives for your freedom,” said James Wilson, past chaplain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lt. Vernon F. Hovey III Post in Niskayuna, at a Memorial Day ceremony held at Niskayuna High School’s flag pole.
Wilson said he didn’t personally know any of the fallen comrades but that it is important to continue to conduct these services to honor them.
Those gathered placed a wreath and American flags at a plaque commemorating their service.
“The red of our country’s flag was made much redder by their sacrifice,” said Dennis Davis, commander of the Hovey post.
High School Principal John Rickert also read a long list of the roughly 70 Niskayuna alumni who have served in the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I’d like you to pause in a moment of reflection to honor these individuals and their families,” he said.
Soon that list will include Justice Constantine, who has been admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. She read a poem at the service titled “Grass,” by Carl Sandburg.
“Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work — I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg. And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, 10 years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.”
Constantine said she fell in love with the U.S. Naval Academy when she visited the Maryland campus. She is looking forward to serving her country.
“I think it’s really great to remember those who have passed and those who are still with us,” she said.
Other members of the class of 2012 who are pursuing military service are Andrew Lutchmidat, who is joining the Air Force, Esmeralda Monteparo, who will be in the Air Force National Guard, and Claire Young, joining the U.S. Army National Guard.
Young said several members of her family are in the military. Her father is in the Naval Reserve, her sister is in the Coast Guard and her brother is in the Marines. “He just got back from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago,” she said.
Rickert also took a moment to honor Gold Star mothers who have lost a child in war.
“We believe there are less than 100 living Gold Star mothers here in New York state and less than 1,000 nationwide,” he said. “They will always be remembered at our ceremony.”
The Bel Canto Voices choir under the direction of Christina Pizzino performed two songs and senior Brendan Service closed the ceremony with taps.
This was the 20th year for the Memorial Day ceremony, which was started by Wilson and former high school principal Edward Carangelo.