Memorial Day 2023

Memorial Day honors the fallenVFW 1371 leads the 2022 Memorial Day Parade, held in downtown Owego. (File Photo by Wendy Post)

Memorial Day is remembrance for those who have died in military service of the United States. Originally called Decoration Day, it is a United States federal holiday.

American flags will decorate both sides of the Court Street Bridge, remembering Tioga County’s Fallen Heroes. Wreaths will be placed at both the Tioga County Veterans Memorial and Tioga County Civil War Union Memorial to remember Fallen Heroes from all wars.

A memorial wreath will be cast into the Susquehanna River remembering Navy personnel lost at sea. It will also remember Owego and Tioga County’s first WWII casualty Seaman Delmar Dale Sibley, still entombed on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor since December 7, 1941. The Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard will render a rifle salute, and Bugler Steve Palinosky will play Taps.

Many citizens will gather downtown, on the parade route streets or at the Courthouse Square.

An abundance of American flags from porches and businesses will show respect and honor for Tioga County’s Fallen Heroes. Our American flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.

Consider taking the time you would stand and wait for the parade and utilize it to teach your children the meaning of Memorial Day. Explain what is meant by “May we never forget freedom isn’t free” and why we are the “Home of the free, because of the brave.”

Sometime during the day make a private visit to a veterans grave. Take along a flower or poppy. Read aloud the military marker. Proudly say the veteran’s name. Thank the veteran for his or her service and sacrifice.

An annual Memorial Day morning remembrance many people miss because of its early start time before the late morning service is the Final Roll Call of Deceased Tioga County veterans buried in 68 local cemeteries. The Book of Remembrance was a labor of love by Vietnam Combat Veteran Chet and Anita Harding.   

For the 55th year, Mary Beth Jones and Jo Ann Walter will read less than 5,000 honored names by cemetery.

Before 9 a.m. the VFW Post 1371 Honor Guard travels to Hope Cemetery in Newark Valley. They’ll honor deceased Ritual Team and life long VFW member LaVere ‘Si’ Cortright. He was a POW in Moosburg, Germany. ‘Si’ was in the same POW Camp as VFW members Lt. Hugh Hogan, Staff Sergeant Ralph Meza, and Air Force Al Catlin.

Owego’s 155th Memorial Day Parade lines up at 9:30 a.m. on Temple Street by the Police Station. All patriotic community organizations urged to march or ride. Enter your decorated vehicle. Parade Marshall John Loftus steps off the parade at exactly 10 a.m. The parade route is west on Temple, south on North, east on Main, south on Paige, and west on Front to the south Courthouse Square. 

Wear a Red Poppy obtained from a VFW Auxiliary member. Or get one in Apalachin from Sweeney’s and the Blue Dolphin, or in Owego at the Parkview, Early Owego Antique Center, Community Shop, Carol’s Coffee, and the Speedway on Route 17C.

First Presbyterian Church co-pastors Reverends Bruce and Carolyn Gillette will give the Invocation and later Benediction. 

After marching, Owego Elementary students will present the American flag they carried to a VFW officer to be placed in a memorial basket to honor their sacrifice and service.

Vietnam Veteran Lew Sauerbrey will read the honored name of 175 Tioga County Fallen Heroes inscribed on the six memorials. DAR’s Karen Messersmith will lay a wreath at the Tioga County Union Civil War Memory in remembrance of 500 Tioga County Civil War dead. 

Gold Star Mothers / Families and friends will approach the memorial where their son’s name is engraved. They’ll point to it, say the name out loud, and offer a prayer in remembrance of their sacrifice and service.

Town of Owego Historian Peter Gordon has been researching the Civil War Section in Evergreen Cemetery. He’ll read an excerpt from a mother to her soldier son in addition to WWII Soldiers Letters Home from Marie Ward’s scrapbook. More letters home are encouraged from all wars.

Owego Free Academy’s Band, under the direction of Lindsay Williams, marches and at the park plays The National Anthem, Salute to America’s Finest, and the Navy Song. 

The traditional Service of Remembrance will be live at 10 a.m. on WEBO AM. Brief profiles of the Fallen Heroes will tell where they made the supreme sacrifice. T&K’s Gordon Ichikawa faithfully controls the park’s sound system.

Director Mike Middaugh of the Tioga County Veterans’ Service Office will talk about the many services his staff provides to veterans.

Tioga County is a Purple Heart County. Recipients will be acknowledged. A POW/MIA table remembers those who did not come home.

The 55th Roll Call of Veterans who died since last Veterans/Memorial Day will be read by Lew Sauerbrey. Special thank you to Tioga County funeral homes that submitted the data.

A proud Army Mom and Gold Star Mother Barbara Bilbrey, whose son, OFA graduate and Troop 38 Eagle Scout Charlie, was killed in action in Iraq 16 years ago, will share emotional remembrances. Normally she and her husband Charlie travel to Savannah, Ga. for the Warrior Walk, as Fort Stewart pays special tribute to Fallen Heroes who trained there. Not this year.

For “Flags In” at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, where her son is buried, the Gold Star Mother will offer thoughts of what she says to the Youth Group of St. Patrick’s and Blessed Trinity before they place 300 flags on veterans’ graves.

Here are military deaths in America’s major wars: Iraq/Afghanistan 6,773, Persian Gulf 383, Vietnam 58,220, Korean 36,574, World War II 291,557, World War One 116,516, Civil War 750,000 and American Revolution 4,435.

“Flags In” refers to the ceremony of flag placement on Memorial Day – a tradition first observed in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War – at Arlington National Cemetery.

After the speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves.

Memorial Day is the only holiday in which flags are placed on the graves of those who served their country.

When you pass a cemetery with flags all flying, that brings out the tradition of respect America has for its military and for our country.

Though its members are aged and the numbers have dwindled, the VFW and American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 480 welcome the active participation of Boy and Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Youth Groups and volunteers. They make absolutely sure they do not forget even one veteran.

They quietly place flags on the graves of veterans, year after year, so we never forget. American Legion Post 401 Grave Flags Coordinator Tom Simons has the local flags all packaged by the cemetery and ready for the Flag Detail Teams.

Approximately one million men and women of the U.S. military have lost their lives in defense of our nation since the founding of this great Republic.

Not all have died from enemy fire. Some have died from diseases that have too often festered around war zones. Often times, deaths from disease and accidents outnumber casualties caused by enemy weapons.

The flu killed nearly 16,000 U.S. soldiers during World War One. Another 30,000 American service members died in stateside camps. They were all on a mission to serve.

Even when the enemy is an invisible virus or a microscopic germ, the sacrifices made are just as meaningful. The U.S. military has lost service members to COVID-19.

This Memorial Day as we continue to honor those who fell for us in battle, let us also pause to remember those who have also sacrificed their lives while serving others.

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