By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — Patriotism was on full display Thursday when the community turned out to salute its veterans.
Originally known as Armistice Day, the annual federal holiday now known as Veterans Day is meant to honor those who gave of themselves for the good of the country.
“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the fighting in World War I ended in 1918. Due to the conclusion of ‘the war to end all wars,’ Nov. 11 became a recognized day of celebration,” said Commander Scott Kyle of UNITAS Veterans Memorial Association, also known as VFW Post 9594. “The day was originally declared Armistice Day about eight years after the end of World War I and honored soldiers and Marines of that war, but then in 1954, after World War II and Korea, it was named Veterans Day to honor all those who served the United States.
“Today, we honor all of our veterans who unselfishly placed their lives on hold for something greater than themselves. Those men and women were ordinary people and they heard the call of duty and answered it.”
The annual Veterans Day service was held at the veterans’ monument on Main Street, opposite the Ravena firehouse. The color guard held flags proudly aloft, musician and singer Jack Covey performed several songs and recited a poem, and bugler John Vasto concluded the ceremony.
Covey, a combat Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, pointed out that some veterans have experienced severe trauma and need to come to each other’s aid.
“We are a family and we need to support each other,” Covey said. “There are a horrible number of veterans that have taken their own lives. I just want to do everything in my power to be able to encourage and be available for veterans.”
Korean War veteran Michael Albano was among the veterans attending the service and said remembering the sacrifices that have been made by the troops is critical.
“Veterans Day is important so people never forget,” Albano said after the ceremony. “So many people have lost so many children.”
Albano is also past commander of VFW Post 9594.
“I was fortunate. I was in the Navy on a ship, but others were not so fortunate,” Albano said.
Mayor Bill Misuraca said following the ceremony that the community turning out for events like this shows veterans did not serve in vain.
“When veterans see the public, especially the younger generation, I think it shows them that their sacrifice was needed and welcomed and necessary for us to be where we are,” Misuraca said. “They can see what we have because of them.”
Veteran Trip Powell, another VFW past commander, said people need to remember that the impact of military conflict can be harsh.
“People need to remember that conflict has consequences,” Powell said. “It’s important as a country to realize that not everything is about politics and that there are people here who gave of themselves, at risk of their lives, for something bigger than themselves.”
By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — More than 100 flags were disposed of in a flag burning ceremony last Wednesday on the grounds of Ravena VFW Post 9594.
Now known as UNITAS Veterans Memorial Association, the organization’s Auxiliary hosted the community’s first public flag burning service to retire torn and tattered flags that are no longer serviceable.
“For flags that are tattered, the correct way to get rid of them is to burn them and after we burn them, we bury the ashes,” Auxiliary member Joseph Eissing said “That is the correct way to do it. The ashes will be burned on the grounds of the VFW Post.”
About 100 flags were collected and properly folded into triangles, then members of the local fire departments oversaw the burning in a special burn barrel.
This was the first time the Auxiliary hosted a public flag disposal ceremony, and the Auxiliary expects to make it an annual event, Eissing said.
Auxiliary President Mary Ellen Rosato said the UNITAS building is being renovated and there were many old, unserviceable flags that needed to be retired. More were collected from community members, she added.
“They are working on the Post and there were so many flags that needed to be disposed of, so we thought to do this as a community event with the kids and the firehouse,” Rosato said. “We are just trying to do things in the community to bring everyone together. It’s really wonderful — there are a lot of people here.”
Flags were collected with the help of Boy Scout Ryan Leonard, who is pursuing the vaunted Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank in scouting. Leonard collected about 60 of the 100 or so flags that were turned in for disposal.
For his Eagle Scout community service project, Leonard built flag-disposal boxes and posted them around the community.
“The project is to collect old and ripped up flags that aren’t able to be flown on a flag post anymore,” Leonard said. “We collected them so they are not just thrown away in the trash and today we are properly disposing of them. I had three temporary boxes — at the New Baltimore firehouse, the Coeymans Town Hall and the New Baltimore Town Hall — and then I built a permanent box here at the VFW and that will stay there forever so people can drop off their flags and the VFW will take care of them. I told Ravena and New Baltimore that if they need somebody to pick them up, I will pick them up.”
Leonard got the idea for the community service project because he had an unusable flag himself.
“I figured I would do something for the VFW and I thought about American flags because I had an old American flag that had to be disposed of, so I thought I would do that and see how many I got,” Leonard said. “I really appreciate everyone who donated the flags so we can retire them properly.”
Auxiliary member Lisa Foronda Schmitt said getting local children involved was important to the group.
“We were trying to think how we can get young people in our community involved in patriotic events so we reached out to the schools,” Schmitt said. “There is a Girl Scout group here, there’s a Boy Scout group, the seventh graders get extra credit if they attend, so it has become quite a nice community event.”
VFW Post 9594 Past Commander Trip Powell said there is a very specific ceremony to properly burn U.S. flags and this is the first time the local organization has done so in a public ceremony.
“The Post has always taken flags that people didn’t know what to do with and we would hold them and just have private ceremonies and burn them,” Powell said. “The VFW Auxiliary came up with this idea to do a public burning with a special incinerator unit and then they had the idea to bring on fire companies to join in. It was a really great idea and doing it the day before Veterans Day is touching.”