It was a day for both somber reflection and celebration in Dunkirk. The Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council, which consists of 11 area American Legions, VFW's and other military-related organizations, planned Monday's Memorial Day parade and services.
Master of Ceremonies John D'Agostino set the tone for the morning's memorial services held at Memorial Park in Dunkirk.
He said, "In the last year, our region has lost more than 80 of our war veterans. They were all local heroes who participated in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and Afghanistan. They served the greatest county in the world - and they served to protect our freedoms.
"Your attendance this morning - on a day to remember - is sincerely appreciated and most importantly it is American."
Amanda Tuggle and Hannah Wentz harmonized beautifully in their rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." The Dunkirk High School band, under the direction of Jenniene Scarem, performed "America the Beautiful."
The Rev. Walter Werbicki delivered the invocation. Praying for those who have lost loved ones, he invoked one of the beatitudes found in Matthew, "Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted."
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Left to right: Chief Petty Officer Arthur Casella USN (retired), SSgt Joseph Gullo III, Lt. Christopher Wilson, U.S. Coast Guard, and Master of Ceremonies John D’Agostino. Casella was presented with the 2012 Grand Marshal Plaque by Wilson.
Mayor of Dunkirk, Anthony J. Dolce, spoke briefly, thanking those present. He especially recognized Jack Sievert, Commander of the Joint Veterans Council, and the dedication and hard work that makes this annual event a success.
Dolce said, " Perhaps we can honor the dead best by giving honor and respect to those who served and returned to civilian life. ... I close by simply saying thank you."
Dunkirk native George Burns III, U.S. Coast Guard Commander (retired) spoke first, remembering those ordinary boys from the area who left home to defend the country.
Secondary speaker, Lt. Christopher Wilson, is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, currently heading the Sea Partners Campaign. He spoke about proper flag etiquette, explaining that on Memorial Day the American flag is to be at half staff until noon and then raised to its normal position.
He said, "Today and everyday let us not forget to honor and show appropriate respect to those who have honored our country with their sacrifice - to ensure that the wings of liberty may never lose a feather."
Guest speaker was Captain David Banach (retired United States Navy), who practices dentistry in Jamestown.
He provided a general background saying, "More than one million American service members have died in wars and conflicts since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775 to fight for our independence."
Banach then spoke about the naval militia in Dunkirk which was founded in 1912 and federalized in 1917. The person who founded it was Harry B. Lyons, coincidentally, was also a dentist who practiced in the area for 25 years and was also active in politics, serving as Second Ward councilman, a two-term mayor of the city. He also became postmaster and served as local head of the war ration board.
The Grand Marshall Plaque was presented to Chief Petty Officer Arthur Casella USN (retired) by Lt. Christopher Wilson.
Chaplain Sandra Topasto offered a prayer, before members of participating organizations laid wreaths at the monuments at Memorial Park. A firing squad was provided by the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council Honor Guard. Barney Kuzara played taps.
After the raising of the flag, a benediction from Dr. Robert Gage, and a performance of God Bless America, the service was concluded and units formed for the parade.
People began to smile and enjoy themselves watching the passing units which included bands, drum and bugle corps, Girl Scouts, Little League participants and their families, Blue Star mothers, classic cars, and the Sons of Liberty motorcycle groups. Perhaps the group that brought the most smiles was a group of drummers who made their own drums from various containers. The signs on their vehicle said, "Pail riders" "the Bucket Nears" and the "Rubbermaid Brigade." The group drummed up a storm, ending with the famous "Wipe Out."
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