Memorial Day in Owego; a day of remembrance

In Memory of our Honored Dead, Owego and Tioga County observes Memorial Day with a 10:30 a.m. downtown parade and 11 a.m. Service of Remembrance at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial, preceded after 8 a.m. by other memorial services.  

On Sunday, church pastors are asked to have their congregations thank veterans attending church for their service and sacrifice, and remember those who have fallen. Churches are asked again to develop from their congregation an Honor Roll of Fallen Heroes and read their honored names. Pastors are also requested to invite their church members to march in Monday’s parade behind their church banner. 

Schools in Tioga County are asked to remember their Fallen Heroes. Volunteer to develop a memorial list of those who made the supreme sacrifice. What is available could be used during services over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Memorial Day 2018 in Owego dawns with American flags, the POW/MIA flag and New York State flag at half-staff until noon over the Tioga County Civil War Union Memorial and the Tioga County Veterans Memorials. 

The U.S. Flag only flies at half-staff for the first half of the day, and then is raised to full height from noon to sundown. The unique custom honors the war dead for the morning, and living veterans for the rest of the day. The noon flag raising symbolized the persistence of the nation in the face of loss. 

“Tribute Past Due” flags on the Court Street Bridge honor the 44 WWII Fallen Heroes inadvertently left off the original memorial.   

A Roll Call of Honor – Remembering and Honoring deceased veterans eternally sleeping in Tioga County cemeteries – starts after 8 a.m. at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial. 

Before the parade at 9 a.m. at the WWII Memorial, the Honor Guard of the Glenn A. Warner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1371 and their Auxiliary will honor the five Tioga County families whose deceased veterans served at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. 

Church Memorial Day Masses will be held at St. James in Waverly at 8:30 a.m., and at St. Patrick’s in Owego at 9 a.m.

The Downtown parade welcomes veterans from all war eras.  

Gold Star Mothers and families are invited, as well as all surviving former POWs and their families and families of deceased POWs. Former POWs are urged to make their presence known to parade officials for appropriate recognition.   

Wear your military uniforms. Veterans with valor honors such as Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star are reminded to proudly wear their medals and service ribbons in the parade and remembrance service. Share the meaning of your medals with the children. 

To apply for designation as a Purple Heart County, living veterans with Purple Hearts are urged to identify themselves. Families of deceased veterans with Purple Hearts are also asked to make this fact known. 

Military home on leave are welcome to join active Army Reserve and National Guard and veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea and World War II in the parade and receive the heartfelt gratitude of the community. 

Parade Marshall John Loftus starts the downtown parade at 10:30 a.m. He needs marching units to line up with the Honor Guards and veterans from the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1371 Men’s Auxiliary and Ladies Auxiliary, Chapter 480 Vietnam Veterans of America, Tioga Post 401 American Legion and Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion, Tioga County Marine Corps League and Veterans of Modern Warfare of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Also marching is the Owego Elks Lodge, the Owego Free Academy Marching Band, and students from Zion Lutheran and Owego Apalachin Elementary and Middle Schools and Owego Free Academy, the Civil Air Patrol, the Owego Gymnastics and Activities Center, the National Guard’s 204th Engineer Battalion vehicles and Army Reserves. 

Also, for the fifth consecutive year, Civil War units including Tent 2, Daughters of Union Civil War Veterans, who will pass out small American flags to children along the parade route, will participate in the parade.

Also invited are Boy Scout Troops 60, 38 and 37, Newark Valley Troop 30 and others, Girls Scouts, Brownies and Cub Scout Packs, Angels Over Iraq/Afghanistan, The Moose, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, elected officials from the Village and Town of Owego and Tioga County, School Board members from Owego-Apalachin, Tioga Central, Candor Central and Spencer Van Etten, Emergency Squads and volunteer fire departments from Owego, Campville, Southside, Apalachin, Candor, Newark Valley and Berkshire. 

This is an open invitation to all community groups – church, school, civic, fraternal, youth sports leagues such as Owego, Apalachin  and Nichols  Little Leagues, Travel teams including Soccer and Volleyball and Lacrosse, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, all Tioga County  law enforcement agencies and State Police, fire departments and emergency squads from Owego, Campville, Southside, Apalachin, Nichols, Newark Valley, Berkshire and Richford, and groups not specifically mentioned who would like to honor Americans who died for their country. 

Patriotic citizens may build a float with the theme of “Remembrance.” An abundance of American flags in the parade and along the five street parade route would be greatly appreciated. 

The public is encouraged to line the streets of the parade route. As the American flag passes, remember to stand to salute or place your hand over your heart. The Owego Free Academy Marching Band will play patriotic music in the parade and the Armed Forces Service Songs, National Anthem and “Salute to America’s Finest” at the park. 

Highlights of the Service of Remembrance at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial on the south lawn of the Tioga County Court House includes the Scout Troop 60’s Roll Call of Honor  – the Reading of 175 Honored Names of Tioga County’s Fallen Heroes – while the American flags carried by Owego Elementary School students in the parade are placed in a patriotic basket by a veteran

Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony by Gold Star Families, the Tioga County Marine Corps League and veterans of VMW of Iraq, Afghanistan Vietnam, Korea and World War II and representatives of the American Legion Post 401, Glenn A. Warner Post 1371, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 480 and Veterans of Modern Warfare of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Father Anthony Amato, Parochial Vicar of St. Patrick’s and Blessed Trinity will give the Invocation. The Owego Free Academy Parade Band will perform the National Anthem.    

The Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the memorials continues to honor the 175 Fallen Heroes from Tioga County who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. 

Gold Star Mothers and Families may join veterans and auxiliary members to lay the Red, White and Blue floral tributes in front of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Tioga County, World War II and World War I Memorials and Tioga County Civil War Union Memorial. 

The OFA Parade Band plays the National Anthem and later a Medley “Salute to America’s Finest.” The Armed Forces songs – Caisson Song (Army), Anchors Aweigh (Navy), Semper Paratus (Coast Guard), Marines’ Hymn (Marines) and the U.S. Air Force March (Air Force). 

Roll Call of Honor of Names of Deceased Veterans since last Veterans Day will be read aloud by Tioga County Veterans Service Officers John Holton and Mike Middaugh. They seek data on our World War One Fallen Heroes. Mike will tell the story of one of our 25 – William E. Weeks of Waverly, who died during the Battle of Belleau Wood in France. 

The Civil War Remembrance Ceremony honors the Tioga County Civil War Fallen Heroes on the 127th Anniversary of the Tioga County Union Memorial. Karen Messersmith will preside with her Daughters of the Union Veterans. Remembered will be Newark Valley Historian Jerry Marsh who in the past related the 500 Tioga County losses in the Civil War.  

DAR Owego Regent Linda Daubex will report on revolutionary War era. 

The Navy Burial at Sea Wreath Ceremony moves from the park to the west side of the Court Street Bridge. Navy fallen heroes are remembered when a Navy veteran casts a wreath upon the waters of the Susquehanna River. You may watch from Draper Park. Tell us whereabouts downriver you find the wreath. 

From the alcove of the bridge, Memorial Day 2018 concludes with a Rifle Salute by the Post 1371 VFW Honor Guard and Taps by an OFA Bugler.  

The Public Address System is very important for Owego’s Memorial Day. Veterans thank Gordon Ichikawa of T&K Communications Systems of Owego for faithfully providing sound for the Memorial Day events at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial. Gordon is following in the footsteps of his decorated combat veteran father. Both father and son have provided sound for years.  

Gordon is the son of the late 89-year-old Past Post 1371 Commander Tom Ichikawa. In WWII, Tommy was a Battalion Combat Radio Sergeant for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of its size and duration in US Army history. The native U.S. citizen born of immigrant Japanese parents received the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. He enlisted Dec. 8, 1941. 

Gordon’s mother, 98-year-old Kiyo Ichikawa, died Jan. 25, 2016. With other Japanese Americans, she spent three years in concentration camps in California and Idaho. Tommy and Kiyo Ichikawa relocated to Owego in the early 1960’s.   

A decades old ceremony known as “Flags In” marks the beginning of Memorial Day activities in Tioga County. The mission: to place an American flag on each and every veterans grave site, leaving no veteran forgotten. Legion Adjutant Tom Simons coordinated flag procurement and distribution. 

“Flags In” details of veterans from American Legion Posts in Owego, Candor, Nichols and Waverly, and VFW Posts in Owego, Waverly and Spencer Van Etten, as well as their Auxiliaries and Sons of the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Tioga Marine Corps League and Veterans of Modern Warfare of Iraq and Afghanistan, placed small American flags on veterans headstones in 100 Tioga County cemeteries. Senior veterans welcome the enthusiasm of the younger Boy and Girl Scouts, school children, volunteers and families.  

The Auxiliary of the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars and Boy Scout Troop 60 placed flags on veteran graves in Historic Evergreen Cemetery. Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 480 and Boy Scout Troop 38 placed flags on veteran graves in the Tioga Cemetery. American Legion Post 401 placed flags on veteran graves in the Towns of Owego and Tioga. Newark Valley Boy Scout Troop 30 places flags from Flemingville to Richford, including Hope Cemetery-Newark Valley and Evergreen Cemetery-Berkshire.  

In St. Patrick’s Cemetery, the Youth Ministry of St. Patrick’s-Owego and St. Margaret Mary-Apalachin will hold their second “Flags In” ceremony organized by their Director, Annette Larrabee. 

Iraq Gold Star Mother, Barbara Bilbrey, described the daily Remembrance of Memorial Day from a mother’s perspective. She knelt and stood by the grave of her Iraq Fallen Hero son, 21-year-old Army Specialist Charles Bilbrey Junior, killed July 26, 2007 when an improvised explosive device blew up near his Humvee. The Owego Free Academy graduate, who would have been 32 on May 10, is the posthumous recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his Iraq Freedom heroism. 

New York State Senator Fred Akshar inducted him into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Owego-Apalachin Schools inducted him to their Wall of Fame last June. 

In Riverside Cemetery on Marshland Road, Apalachin, Apalachin Girl Scout Troop 425 will place flags near the headstone of over 200 veterans. Troop Leader Jennifer Werner has her Brownies and Juniors precede “Flags In” with a ceremony remembering all veterans. 

Chet and Anita Harding of Project Homecoming will mark a 12 year milestone – placement of 500 wreaths and flag holders.  

Before Memorial Day, more wreaths and flag holders were placed in cemeteries throughout Tioga County. They’re split up for veterans of all eras and wars. Different veterans are chosen each year. Wreaths are 16 to 20 inches depending on embellishments. Each year a different theme and color is used.  The theme this year will be rose buds and roses in red white and blue color. 

Selection is based on graves that do not have a military stone or clear marking, since they are graves often missed. 

There is a Civil War Exhibit at the Tioga County Historical Society and Museum on Front Street. Visit for details. 

If you wish more information about being part of Owego’s Memorial Day parade, contact VFW Post 1371 Memorial Day Chairman Jim Raftis by email to, or by calling 687-4229.  

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