Scores of Fultonians gathered at the city’s veterans park Tuesday where, beneath a big American flag suspended from the ladder of a firetruck, the community paid tribute to its military veterans.
As the sound of nearby church bells marked the 11th hour of the day, the ceremony began with a prayer by Fr. Moritz Fuchs, a U.S. Army veteran. In his remarks that followed, Fuchs urged everyone to give thanks for those who serve, and their willingness to do so in the name of American ideals.
“As we honor veterans on this day, we remember the armistice that ended World War I, the so-called Great War, that was followed by World War II and the Vietnam War, Korean War and the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan. A lot of our men and women served with honor in these conflicts. So we today honor them and thank God for their willingness and determination to stand up for the freedoms that are ours in America,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs’ remarks were followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jim Weinhold, the Fulton Veterans Council’s 2014 Veteran of the Year, and the singing of the national anthem by Bonnie Fauler.
Several local dignitaries delivered words in the ceremony, including Mayor Ron Woodward Sr., and state Assemblyman Will Barclay, who each stressed the importance of honoring those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“Our veterans live the words ‘honor,’ ‘loyalty,’ ‘duty’ and ‘nation’. It is fitting that we take this time to reflect upon those ideals,” Woodward said. “There is no better way to honor these men and women than to try our best to exemplify these characteristics for which they gave their service to their country.”
“We should never forget the sacrifices of our veterans,” said Barclay. “Our nation would not exist if not for the sacrifices of our veterans. Today, more than ever, please take time to thank a vet.”
Garry Visconti of the Fulton Veterans Council, who emceed the event, took a moment during the ceremony to reflect on the life of Harold Blake of Fulton – one of the last living local veterans to have fought in the Battle of the Bulge, who passed away on Nov. 2. Visconti stressed the importance of teaching younger generations to appreciate the sacrifices of men like Blake.
“As I reflect on the loss of (Blake), I have thought about a lot of the seasoned veterans we have who are still alive today, and who have a lot to say about our history. And with all these young children here, we need to get the word to them about the history of this great county — about everything these veterans have done so that these children have the right to live in a free country,” Visconti said. “I think that’s something that’s lost quite a bit here lately, and I think that it’s time for us to start reinstating that with them.”
In other remarks, veteran Alan DeLine gave Visconti a ray of hope on the subject. DeLine was part of group of about 50 veterans who recently toured elementary schools throughout the county, where children in grades K through 4 sang medleys of patriotic songs from memory – a display he found to be quite impressive.
“They sang about five or so patriotic songs that they had memorized. Now, we’re talking about kindergarten through fourth grade, and they had memorized them,” DeLine said. “So I’m glad to see that our kids here are coming along all right.”
Tuesday’s event also included a ceremonial laying of a wreath in front of the veterans monument as Fauler sang “An Old Irish Blessing;” a three-volley salute by by members of the Futon VFW Honor Guard, followed by the playing of “Taps;” the singing of “God Bless America; remarks by Ray Caprin of the Fulton Elks Lodge; and a closing prayer by Fr. Fuchs.
Before the ceremony finished, Visconti took a moment to thank those in attendance.
“I really, really, from the bottom of my heart, thank everyone of you in the community for being here to support our veterans. You wouldn’t believe how much this crowd means to me and all the veterans standing here,” Visconti said.
Fulton Veterans Council Director Donna Kestner called the event’s attendance “fabulous,” and thanked all of the community leaders who helped make it possible, including the mayor’s office, the police and fire departments, county legislators, and members of the Fulton VFW, American Legion, Masonic War Veterans and the Marine Corps League.
The event continued with luncheon at the VFW sponsored by the Fulton Veterans Council.