Plans set for Memorial Day in Owego

Honor Fallen Heroes at the Veterans Memorial

By Jim Raftis Sr.

On Memorial Day weekend, Owego comes alive with a sense of unity and reverence. As the sun rises, its rays will illuminate the patriotic village as volunteers bustle about, preparing for the annual parade. 

From 8 a.m. to 10:10 a.m., live on WEBO AM FM 1330 and Facebook, JoAnn Walter and Mary Beth Jones will read the annual Roll Call of veterans in Tioga County cemeteries. They’ll receive plaques of appreciation at the park. 

At precisely 10 a.m., Parade Chairman John Loftus shouts “let’s go,” led by the police cars and a line of veterans from the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars (back from an Elmira grave decoration), American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America followed by their Auxiliaries.They will march proudly in uniform, their medals glinting in the morning light.

Behind them, Loftus expects representatives from local businesses, civic and fraternal organizations, Scouting America (Boy Scout name change after 114-year history) and veterans, the Owego Free Academy Marching Band, flag-waving Owego Elementary students, antique cars, many others not mentioned, each displaying their support for those who served.  

As the parade winds its way up North, east on Main, south on Paige, and west on Front Street, citizens will gather along the sidewalks, waving flags and cheering in appreciation. Children will sit atop their parent’s shoulders, wide-eyed with admiration for the heroes passing by. The sound of band music fills the air, creating an atmosphere of solemnity and gratitude. 

Following the parade, the community will gather at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial for a Service of Remembrance. 

WEBO AM begins live coverage from the park at 10:15 a.m. It will include General Logan’s General Order 11 for the first Memorial Day. A remembrance of long time soundman Gordon Ichikawa, who drowned scuba diving in Aruba, will take place in addition to a short tribute to veterans. 

Master of Ceremonies Iraq Gold Star Mother Barbara Bilbrey welcomes all to Owego’s 133rd overall and 37th ceremony at the Tioga County Veterans Memorials.

Posting of Colors by the VFW Post 1371 Honor Guard, the National Anthem and later “Salute to America” by the OFA Marching Band, directed by Lindsey Williams, and an Invocation by Deacon Michael Donovan will all center around the Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse Square.

Opening remarks by MC Barb focus on the meaning of the monuments honoring Tioga County’s war dead.

Wreath placements include remarks by Karen Messersmith on the Civil War at the historic Tioga County Union Civil War Memorial, erected in 1890. The Navy Remembrance by a VFW Naval Officer casting a wreath from the Court Street Bridge into the Susquehanna River will take place.

Vietnam Veteran Lew Sauerbrey will read the names of Tioga County’s Fallen Heroes and acknowledge 500 from the Civil War. Elementary students will present flags to a VFW officer for placement in a patriotic basket. Later, Lew will announce Tioga County veterans who died since Veterans Day. 

A Veterans Affairs update will be delivered by Michael Middaugh, director of the Tioga County Veterans’ Service Agency. 

A Benediction by Senior Pastor Jay Geisdorfer of the Nazarene Church, Retirement of the Colors by the VFW Honor Guard, a Rifle Salute andTaps by Bugler Steve Palinosky will conclude the ceremony.

In the afternoon, families will make their way to the cemetery to pay their respects to all veterans. With heads bowed and hearts heavy, they will place flowers on graves adorned with American flags.

The flag is flown at half-staff as a somber reminder of lives lost in defense of our freedom. In homes, families gather, sharing stories of loved ones who served, vowing to never let their memory fade.

On Memorial Day Sunday, pastors are asked to remember veterans from their congregation. There could be a scripture reading, and a prayer of gratitude for service and sacrifice. Invite veterans to stand and be recognized, Deliver a message that reflects on the significance of Memorial Day and importance of remembering and honoring. Close with a blessing and ask for God’s protection on all those who serve and have served in the military.

As the Monday night sun dips below the horizon on Monday, Owego will fall silent with a moment of reflection and gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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