I am writing to tell people how St. Johnsville - this small village of 1,600 people - remembered her fallen heroes during the Memorial Day parade and ceremonies this year.
The parade lasted 47 minutes from beginning to end and consisted of 28 separate entities. Honorary grand marshals were Dennis Frasier, Lester Ropeter and Andrew Susi, who perished in Vietnam. Eighty veterans participated, including five World War II veterans and 11 Korean War veterans. There were 12 military vehicles, including a tank, a 155-mm "Long Tom" cannon towed by its prime mover - a tracked vehicle - a Vietnam gun truck, two jeeps, a command car, a troop truck and others. The parade also included many local organizations and two Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville school bands.
People lined the street three deep through the business section and were numerous in the residential areas, and then many followed the parade to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park for commemoration ceremonies.
At the park, veterans, fire department and bands lined up in separate formations. The crowd numbered about 400 people.
After the invocation, the national anthem was played by the bands and an emotional rendition of "Proud to be an American" was sung. Speakers, Dawn Lamphere and former Assemblyman George Amedore, paid a moving tribute to our fallen. The names of local veterans who passed in the last year were recited.
Ever witnessed a roll call of the fallen ceremony? In front of the formation, the first sergeant calls the roll. He first calls the names of some of those in the formation. When his name is called, he responds, "Here, first sergeant." Then the first sergeant slowly calls the names of those who fell in the service to our country - "Susi" (no answer); "Andrew Susi" (no answer); "Andrew P. Susi" (no answer) - until the roll is complete. It is a very moving and emotionally charged experience.
Next, the honor squad, consisting of eight veterans, fired a three-volley salute to honor the fallen. "Taps" was played by two trumpeters while all formations rendered, "Present, Arms."
Benediction concluded the ceremonies. American Legion Post 168 then provided a meal at an open house at the post rooms for all who desired to participate.
We feel the tremendous participation and turnout for the parade and ceremonies is unique for such a small community.
All veterans who wish to participate, whether Legion members or not, local or not, are cordially invited to join us.
MICHAEL A. O'DOCKERTY
American Legion Post 168