JOHNSTOWN - Pegged in the ground in front of the memorial at Johnstown High School were 71 flags, standing tall and providing a powerful visual for the number of JHS graduates who gave their lives in wars over the last 100 years.
In a new segment of the Johnstown Memorial Day ceremony Wednesday at the school, Principal Michael Beatty read the names from the monument as the crowd sat on the bleachers, silent, as a slight breeze waved the small flags on wooden staffs.
Johnstown students placed a flag in the ground as each name was read.
Johnstown High School junior Emma Heroth places a flag in front of the veterans monument in front of the school at Wednesday’s Memorial Day ceremony.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The 71 names of alumni who died in wars from World War I to the Gulf War are inscribed on the monument, along with a pledge to "honor, revere and perpetuate the memory" of their lives after they "made the supreme sacrifice in service to their country."
That includes 23 from World War 1, 39 from World War II, three from the Korean War, five from the Vietnam War and one from the Gulf War.
"It really puts in perspective the numbers and the commitment they had to democracy," said Mayor Sarah Slingerland after the ceremony.
The city's annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony have traditionally taken place the Friday before the Monday the holiday is observed. This year, the Memorial Day Committee did not organize a parade, and ceremony. Instead, the ceremony was held on traditional Memorial Day, setting it apart, Slingerland said, and observing the actual date and meaning behind the holiday.
"It makes it a unique ceremony," she said.
Memorial Day Committee Chairman and Master of Ceremonies John B. Morris said the idea to read the names from the memorial and hold the ceremony on traditional Memorial Day came from longtime parade organizer Ruth B. White.
"We were hoping for a great turnout, which is what we got," Morris said.
The ceremony included a moment of silence for all deceased veterans. The Johnstown High School band performed the national anthem and a later, a medley of patriotic songs. The school choir sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
In Slingerland's welcoming remarks, she said the monument was erected in large part due to the efforts of former mayor and retired teacher William Pollak.
"I've been thinking today about why Memorial Day is so profoundly remembered and significant to all of us," she said.
The day is set aside to remember men and women in the armed forces who gave their lives, and that, she said, highlights a commitment to this country and their own communities.
"Community values are what holds a community together," Slingerland said. "Generation after generation. A great example of that is the [sacrifice] made by our veterans. We are incredibly grateful for that."
She thanked the Johnstown Memorial Day Committee, the Fire Department, Police Department and Greater Johnstown School District for helping to put the ceremony together. She also issued a special thanks to White, the committee's longtime chief parade organizer. White, 85, is a resident of the Wells Nursing Home and said after last year's parade she would no longer be involved in the planning.
"A special thanks goes to her and all she's done for the city," Slingerland said. "She never likes us to remark on that, but I'm going to, and she really deserves it."
Slingerland said she hopes to name one of the gardens in a downtown park in White's honor.
The Rev. Brian Dykema of the Johnstown Reformed Church delivered the invocation and give the benediction, praying that God would bless all with "anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation, so you will work for justice, equality and peace."
To end the ceremony, the city Police Department honor guard fired a three-shot salute.
Marching band members Elizabeth VanDenburgh and Matthew Miller performed "Taps" to a solemn crowd.
Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at email@example.com.