After 21 years, a little rain Friday wouldn’t stop Niskayuna High School from honoring those who served their country, as the school held its annual Memorial Day ceremony.
“People ask us why we do this 21 years later. We’ve been out of Vietnam 40 years and it’s a very simple thing: We can’t forget,” said James Wilson, past post commander of the VFW 9132 Lt. Vernon F. Hovey III Post and a U.S. Navy World War II veteran.
“They gave their lives so we could enjoy the principle of freedom and be here today assembled as a free nation to make sure that we don’t ever forget all those who gave their lives and the ones who are serving today, of course. It’s very, very important that we do this because it’s that fact that’s what America is all about.”
The emotional ceremony, led by school Principal John Rickert, began with the school’s Bel Canto Voices singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” During the program, the high school honored 11 military veterans; two Niskayuna graduates serving overseas; and nine seniors who are joining the military after graduation.
One of the graduating seniors, Isidora Monterparo, who will be joining the Air National Guard, found the ceremony very moving.
Monterparo said it was “very emotional because you’re surrounded by all these veterans and people that have served and died for our freedom.”
Since 1992, when former Niskayuna High School principal Ed Carangelo began the Memorial Day ceremony, the program has evolved. Carangelo was at Friday’s ceremony for the first time since retiring in 2001.
“When we first went out there, maybe 20 kids, 30 kids, a few teachers, but we had to put out a few bleachers every year,” said Carangelo. “It took on a life of its own.”
Friday there were close to 100 students and faculty present, along with the school’s choir and a student trumpeter who played taps near the end of the ceremony.
The ceremony was one of the few to go on as scheduled in the Capital Region amid a spell of wet and stormy weather, something for which William Frank, director of the Schenectady County Veterans Service Agency and a Vietnam War veteran, was very thankful.
“It means a lot to have ceremonies go on throughout the Capital Region; they really do a special job here,” Frank said. “It was nice, too, because we’ve had a couple of parades cancel this week and it was nice to have it inside. Weather is always a factor.”
The Memorial Day ceremony ended with members of the VFW 9132 laying a wreath and three flags at the memorial near the flag pole in honor of three Niskayuna graduates who were killed in action in Vietnam: Lt. Robert S. Cragin Jr., class of 1962; Lt. Vernon F. Hovey III, class of 1964; and Pfc. Richard W. Starkey, class of 1965.