By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS HOLLOW — A crowd gathered at the memorial opposite the Coeymans Hollow firehouse Monday for the annual Memorial Day ceremony honoring the fallen.
The annual ceremony rotates between several area firehouses, and this year the service was hosted by the Coeymans Hollow Volunteer Fire Corporation.
“We would like to welcome everybody to Coeymans Hollow as we give remembrance to those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety, for our freedom,” Coeymans Hollow Volunteer Fire Corporation President Jerry DeLuca said to welcome the crowd.
Commander Scott Kyle of VFW Post 9594 gave a brief history of Memorial Day — originally called Decoration Day — which honors those who died in service.
“In 1868, Decoration Day came out and it was a remembrance of the soldiers who fell in battle, particularly during the Civil War and the War of the Revolution,” Kyle said. “With that, it was done in May because the flowers started blooming and families could gather and celebrate the lives of those individuals.”
Decoration Day was created three years after the end of the Civil War, on May 5, 1868, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The birthplace of the holiday remains uncertain, with 25 cities claiming to be the first to celebrate it, but in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress declared Waterloo, NY, to be the “birthplace” of Memorial Day, according to the department.
The day is not a time to remember war, but to recall those who were lost, Kyle said.
“Memorial Day is not about battle — it’s about the people that lost their lives during those conflicts,” Kyle said.
VFW Post 9594 Past Commander Trip Powell said after the ceremony that Memorial Day is a poignant day that can be difficult for veterans.
“You can see the emotion here — this day means a great deal to veterans because we all know somebody who was killed in service,” Powell said. “It’s a very difficult day for many of us because it takes us back to a painful time, and for everybody else, it’s great to have the support of our community to help us. We appreciate that.”
If care is not taken to remember those who were lost, they die twice, Kyle said.
VFW Post 9594 Chaplain Dan LaMora served in the U.S. Army in the infantry in Vietnam and echoed that sentiment.
“It’s important to remember that when a person dies, they die twice — they died when they went to heaven, and the second time they die is when people forget, when they forget the sacrifice that the men and women have made throughout the ages,” LaMora said. “And that’s not just recently — this goes back to prior to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, when there were men and women serving in combat units.”
Those who died in combat are not the only ones that need to be remembered, he said.
“When we have a Memorial Day, we are remembering deceased veterans, but we also have veterans, too, that did not see combat, that are deployed throughout the United States, and those that have died in accidents — their memory is still kept alive. This is about all veterans,” LaMora said. “Even though the primary thought is about combat veterans, we have to remember all the veterans and also their parents, the Gold Star Mothers, the Blue Star Mothers. We are here to remember all those men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, either in war or in peacetime. As long as they are being remembered, they will not be forgotten.”
Gold Star Mothers are those who lost a child in the armed forces, and Blue Star Mothers are those with children in active service.
Kyle urged everyone to remember those who died serving their country.
“Those guys raised their right hand, they felt a calling or a need to serve, and they paid the ultimate sacrifice. They lost their lives on the battlefield doing what their country asked them to do,” Kyle said. “That’s why it is important to celebrate it. I don’t think it’s a time of mourning, I think it’s a celebration — a time to celebrate their lives and to honor the fact that they gave their lives for something greater than themselves.”