Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. Attending commemorative ceremonies is the most visible way of demonstrating remembrance. Placing flags at gravesites, marching in parades, sponsoring patriotic programs, dedicating memorials and wearing Buddy Poppies are examples.
Memorial Day is the last Monday of May, and will be recognized and celebrated on May 27. But before that 5,000 stick American flags will be placed in front of headstones of Tioga County veterans.
The tradition of “Flags In” dates back to 1948 at Arlington National Cemetery where flags are placed in front of more than 228,000 headstones.
Back in 1868 Civil War General John A. Logan called for a national holiday Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) to honor the dead from the Civil War. He chose May 30 as the day Americans should visit cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of the fallen.
No one locally should forget the true meaning of Memorial Day. Behind every name on the veterans marker on the back of the headstone is the legacy of someone who served or gave their life so we might live in freedom in our great nation.
Veterans take the job of “Flags In” very seriously. But veterans from the Glenn A Warner Post 1371, Tioga Post 401 American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare from Iraq / Afghanistan are getting older and health issues may prevent some from participating.
Veterans enthusiastically welcome the volunteerism of the Scouts to help. Scouts and Cubs and Girl Scouts from Troops 38 and 60 cover the big cemeteries Tioga and Evergreen. Girl Scouts place flags in Apalachin; St. Patrick / Blessed Trinity Youth Groups place flags St. Patrick’s; Troop 30 of Newark Valley has a large territory from Flemingville to Berkshire and 15 cemeteries. There are 10 cemeteries in the Town of Newark Valley including Hope and six in the Town of Berkshire including Evergreen. Richford volunteers do the four in Town of Richford.
Each cemetery has someone who did not return. Those placing flags keep thoughts of the Gold Star families in their hearts and minds. It is families left behind who bear the cost and suffer the stark reality of the price of freedom.
Tioga Post 401 American Legion’s Tom Simons faithfully takes care of ordering, sorting by cemetery, and packaging for pick up by the volunteers at the VFW. In the cemetery these volunteers crisscross and go up and down to ensure no grave is missed. A volunteer is needed to take a flag to a missed grave. But contact information is necessary.
Memorial Day is a sacred day to all war veterans. On May 27, flags will be lowered to half-staff at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial to remember the war dead. Flags are raised to full staff at noon to remember veterans who served.
Ray Barrett of the VFW Auxiliary brings and sets up the podium and POW/MIA Table. Gordon Ichiwaka of T&K Communication turns on the public address system at 8 a.m. Until 10:15 a.m. Honored Names of Tioga County’s deceased veterans are read aloud by Mary Beth Jones and JoAnn Walter, continuing a five-decade tradition.
Over at the VFW at 8:45 a.m., the VFW Auxiliary honors member Dennis Matthew Howe.
At St. Patrick’s Church at 9 a.m., Father Mitch celebrates the Memorial Day Mass.
Back to the Veteran’s Memorial at 9:15 a.m., the VFW Honor Guard honors two-time past Commander Bill Edwards – 1961-1962 and 2007-2008.
Over on Temple Street between the Owego Police Station and Presbyterian Union Church at 10 a.m., Parade Marshall John Loftus lines up the units for the 10:30 a.m. downtown area parade.
Especially invited this year to compliment traditional marchers are all veterans of D-Day and Normandy on the 75th anniversary, Tioga County’s oldest living WWII veterans, all living Purple Heart Recipients and families of deceased Purple Heart Recipients and Tioga Post 401 American Legionnaires observing their 87th anniversary and national’s 100th. Transportation requested for those unable to march.
Floats depicting Memorial Day are most appropriate.
Back at the Memorial at 10:15 a.m. a special Memorial Tribute will honor Fallen Heroes, POW/MIAs and families.
On the parade route or at the park – wear a Buddy Poppy obtained from a VFW Auxiliary member. The Buddy Poppy – small red flower symbolic of the bloodshed in WWI – benefits disabled and down and out American veterans.
At 10:30 a.m. the Memorial Day Parade marches from Temple to North, to Main to Paige to Front, then to the Memorial. Along the parade route spectators stand with a hand over their heart or salute as the American flag passes. Patriotic decorations are most appropriate.
Once the parade arrives at the TCVM on the south lawn of the Tioga County Courthouse, the Service of Remembrance begins. Memorial Day honors the 170 Fallen Heroes who’s Honored Names are inscribed on the WWI, WWIIs, Tioga County, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan Memorials and 500 from the Civil War.
Owego Elementary School Vice President Kasey Chobot leads her students carrying flags in the parade that remember our Fallen Heroes. Each student will present the flag to a veteran or put the flag in a memorial tribute basket at the memorial as Scouts from Troop 60 read the Honored Names.
Officer of the Day Walt Beardslee leads the VFW Post 1371 Color Guard and those from the Legion, Vietnam and Modern Veterans in the Posting of Colors. OFA’s Parade Band, led by Lindsey Williams, will play the “Star Spangled Banner” and later “Salute to America’s Finest” and the Navy Hymn.
The Invocation and Benediction by Father Mitch. He’s the Administrator of Blessed Trinity / St. Patrick’s Parish, and is a retired Catholic Chaplain Major USAF. His keynote address will be “The Role of a Catholic Chaplain in the Military.”
He was raised and educated in the Northwest Part of Poland. He became a United States citizen on Feb. 12, 1991. Father retired from active Air Force duty with the rank of Major in October 2018. In 20 years of active duty he was deployed five times and served in nine bases in the United States, Korea and Europe.
Remembrance continues with Memorial Wreath Laying, POW/MIA Remembrance, a Salute to America’s Finest by OFA Parade Band, Recognition of WWII D-Day and Normandy Veterans, and a Salute to Tioga County’s Oldest Living Veterans.
Tioga County Is A Purple Heart County, and will be recognized by Tioga County Veterans Service Officer John Holton. There will be a Roll Call of Deceased Tioga County veterans since Memorial Day by Tioga County Veteran Service Officers John Holton and Mike Middaugh. The ceremony will conclude with a Navy Wreath Laying Service, including the Navy song by the OFA Parade Band, on the Court Street Bridge remembering Navy dead; a VFW Honor Guard Rifle Salute; and an OFA Bugler sounds Taps.
Donations are needed so Memorial wreaths can be posted at the Memorial. Contact VFW Post 1371, Veterans of Foreign Warts Memorial Day Chairman Jim Raftis by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.