Commander Larry Weibel set the tone for Memorial Day ceremonies, welcoming veterans, families and the public to the solemn wreath-laying in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country throughout the nation’s history.
Post members led the tribute – a pilgrimage of sorts to monuments around the City of Utica.
It all began with a ceremony outside the Post, where Auxiliary President Dorothy Bailey and Secretary Rosetta LaPaglia placed e a wreath and Auxiliary Chaplain Oare’ Beyah offered a prayer.
Then Legion Family members boarded Centro buses and headed to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Oneida Square. Legionnaires Ed Jackson and Pauline Bright, both Navy vets, had the honor of placing the wreath, with Post Chaplain Paul Wojcik and retired Army Chaplain Gary Howard offering words of payer. Legionnaire Vin Zaleski played taps on an electronic bugle while members of the Vietnam Veterans of American (VVA) and Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) (many of them Legionnaires) presented the colors.
The prayers and colors and taps were repeated at succeeding monuments, with the exception of the POW/MIA site, where taps were not played in recognition of the hope that some prisoners of war and missing in action could still come home.
The second stop was the Vietnam Veterans Monument on the Memorial Parkway where the VVA chapter presented the colors and Vietnam vets Tom Buono, Sean McGuirl and Joe Fraccola placed the wreath.
Moving a little further along the Parkway, the group conducted ceremonies at the POW/MIA Monument and then the World War I/World War II/Korean War Monument. Past Post Commander Bill Sequin and Post 2nd Vice Commander Connery Zaleski laid the POW/MIA wreath. Legion Family leaders placed the other wreath, including Post Commander Weibel, Auxiliary President Dorothy Bailey,and Sons of the American Legion Squadron Commander Dave Valentine.
That was followed by a trip to Purple Heart Park in West Utica and the American Veterans Monument at Utica Memorial Auditorium. Central New York Chapter 490 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart helped lead ceremonies at both sites, with Legionnaire Joe Fraccola, a Purple Heart leader, inviting Purple Heart recipients Jack Reising, Jim Williams, Vin Egristis and Johnny Stenson to place the wreath at the park. At the Utica Aud, he invited Auditiorium Authority Chairman Carl Annese and Purple Heart recipient Duane Evans to lay the wreath.
The final stop was at the All Veterans Monument and Gold Star Mothers Memorial at the Utica Post Office on Pitcher Street in East Utica, where Vietnam vet Larry Badger and Carol Sinnott, wife of a Vietnam vet, presented the wreath.
Before dismissing the gathering to return to Utica Post 229 for a buffet lunch, Legionnaire and VVA Chapter 944 President Tom Buono noted that while many Americans get together with families and friends over Memorial Day weekend for picnics and barbeques, it was important to remember the meaning of Memorial Day. “Tell your children and grandchildren to remember” those who gave their lives for their country. “We don’t ever want to forget.”