JOHNSTOWN - The featured speaker of the annual downtown Johnstown Veterans Day Program on Sunday reminded those gathered that veterans not only serve their country proudly abroad, but continue their service on the front lines at home with civilian disasters such as the recent Hurricane Sandy.
Kevin Quinn, adjutant for Johnstown American Legion Post No. 472, talked about acts of bravery by servicemen and women abroad and at home in paying homage to veterans.
"You are veterans and this day is your day," Quinn said.
Above, Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer John B. Morris, master of ceremonies, salutes as colors are posted at the annual Johnstown
Veterans Day Program on
Sunday at the downtown Charles Jenner Bandshell.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
The city annually conducts a Veterans Day service on the traditional holiday of Nov. 11. Meeting again this year at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Charles Jenner Bandshell on West Main Street, the program was conducted for about 80 onlookers immediately after all church bells in the city sounded.
Quinn told the story of Timothy Murphy, a rifleman in the Revolutionary War and "America's first sniper." He said he got to know who Murphy was when he placed a wreath at the Saratoga National Battlefield. At the Second Battle of Saratoga on Oct. 7, 1777, Murphy is reputed to have shot and killed Britain's Sir Francis Clerke and Gen. Simon Fraser.
Quinn said that after the war, Murphy, as a veteran, became a credit to his community, settling in Middleburgh, Schoharie County, where he raised five sons and four daughters.
"He returned from war continuing where he left off, living his life," Quinn said.
Speaking about modern times, Quinn cited examples of veterans helping their communities.
He talked about the "Texas Towers," a set of radar facilities off the eastern seaboard of the United States used for surveillance by the Air Force during the Cold War. After a hurricane hit the New Jersey area of the towers in 1961, Quinn said, one of the towers collapsed, killing 84 Air Force personnel. Quinn said Navy and Coast Guard veterans helped evacuate people caught in the hurricane.
He talked about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which National Guard members marched into lower Manhattan. He said those veterans helped civilian victims of the attacks, going into "harm's way."
"They were probably just as scared as the people around them," Quinn said. "And we were at peace."
He told the gathering how he used to ride his bike on Staten Island, the same place where, in recent days, veterans could be seen helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Quinn concluded by citing the battlefield accomplishments of all veterans. He talked about service members coming home from the war in Afghanistan.
Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Jon B. Morris introduced Mayor Sarah Slingerland, who also gave brief Veterans Day remarks.
She began by remembering city volunteer Ruth B. White, who died June 28. White used to organize the annual Veterans Day program.
"We all knew what to do today because she trained us," Slingerland said.
The ceremony included a moment of silence for White and all deceased veterans.
The mayor also discussed several freedoms enjoyed by Americans today - such as freedom of speech - mainly made possible by the accomplishments of veterans.
Deacon Richard Solar of Holy Trinity Parish gave the invocation and benediction, telling the crowd, "We pray for veterans who are serving us at this time, especially for those who are in harm's way."
The Johnstown High School Band performed the National Anthem and a selection titled, "America On Parade."
Color Guard members were from American Legion Post No. 472, the Johnstown Fire Department and the Johnstown Police Department Honor Guard. The police guard also fired a three-shot salute.
City Historian Noel Levee did the presentation of the wreath.
JHS band member Elizabeth VanDenburgh played "Taps."
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.