For many Americans Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the beginning of summer, complete with camping trips, family barbecues and time spent with family.
For the several hundred families of the Lower Valley veterans who congregated Monday morning at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens, the day took on a more somber tone. They came to commemorate the sacrifices made by their family members during the annual Memorial Day services.
Keynote speaker Sunnyside Mayor Jim Restucci saluted the memories of those who gave their all for freedom’s sake and offered thanks to the veterans’ survivors. “We need to remember their families who have sacrificed so much. “For you see, long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent and spouses will be without their life partners, and parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early in life,” Restucci said.
Restucci, who contributed his own youth in services to the United States armed forces, reminded the crowd to be there for the veterans, their families. “Not just as members of veteran’s groups but as American citizens,” he urged.
“No one can replace these fallen heroes - especially in the eyes of their family - but we can offer them assurances that their loved one’s sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Restucci said.
Among those honored during Monday’s services was Les Amundson, who was on hand for the special tribute. Amundson was a prisoner of war during World War II in the European theater.
This year the memorial honor guard included as special guest Sunnyside Police Sgt. Oliver Hernandez, who served in the U.S. Marines during the Desert Storm Conflict.
Also on hand for the occasion were former Marines Randall Pritchett, who served during World War II, and Nick Myers, who served just prior to the Desert Storm Conflict.
VFW Post #3482 Commander Bill Ingram read the names of 60 former servicemen who had died in the past 12 months. Also read were the names of 53 servicemen who died during conflicts from World War I to the Global War on Terrorism, by Am-Vet Commander Darrel Clampitt.
Following the laying of wreaths by the local veteran service groups and their auxiliaries, the Lower Valley Honor Guard presented a 21-gun salute and the release of white doves of peace.
The program’s symbolic ending illustrated the keynote speaker’s final words of his address. “We owe it to our heroes that died and the loved ones left behind to make sure that their sacrifices are remembered and that their service to this nation was not in vain,” Restucci said. As has been traditional following the Memorial Day service, families were invited back to the VFW post home for a luncheon served by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and the Am-Vet Ladies Auxiliary.