A Vietnam veteran was solemnly memorialized Monday at the Fort Plain VFW, standing for all those lost in war.
Henry E. Williams Jr., who served in the Vietnam War in 1967, died in 2000. This year, his family turned to the VFW to help remember him in a way they cannot do at his grave.
“He’s buried in the National Cemetery,” said his son, Henry Williams III. “We can’t leave flowers or anything there, like you can in another cemetery. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. That’s where he’d want to be, with his friends. But . . .”
The rules at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery do allow cut flowers, but no potted or vased plants can be left at the graves. Flags, permanent plantings, statues and other items are also banned.
The rules left the family with little to do to remember him, so they asked the VFW to dedicate this year’s flag in his name.
Williams was a Green Beret with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, his son said. After Vietnam, he went on to raise a family.
“He was a great guy. He was always there for everybody,” the younger Williams said. “Always. He was a family man.”
Most of the family gathered for the 9 a.m. remembrance, which was a featured part of the VFW’s Memorial Day service. It also featured re-enactors who fired a 21-gun salute with antique flintlocks. The men — and one woman — dressed as Revolutionary War militiamen, complete with clothing and weapons that did not match.
“They were farmers. They came with what they had,” said re-enactor Robert Metzger. “We were civilian soldiers is what we were.”
They used guns they normally used to hunt fowl or deer, he added. The Army did not provide weapons to the militias.
While many Memorial Day services include bands of military personnel, a ragtag group of militia is unusual. But Metzger said it was important to remember every soldier.
“Today we’re honoring our veterans, present and past,” he said.
One little-known fact is that the militiamen were, essentially, draftees. Every man between ages 16 and 60 was obligated to serve, Metzger added.
“They had to show up or they’d be fined,” said Lisa Emden, who portrayed a male militiaman.
A few women volunteered, dressing as men, Emden said. Nowadays, many more women join the ranks in re-enactments.
“There’s women that field and also women in artillery,” she said, referring to those who use flintlocks and those who fire cannons.
She said she loves it.
“Re-enacting the battles, that’s the best part,” she said.
Metzger said he hoped the group’s presence in the Fort Plain ceremony and parade would help spark discussion among children.
“It’s a great hobby, and it does a great thing, educating kids,” he said.