It’s about tradition.
That was the message members of the Whitehall American Legion sent as they presented their annual Memorial Day service and parade on Monday.
“There are a lot of places that either have gotten rid of their services or tied a tag sale or different event to them,” said Jim Lafayette, who annually coordinates the event for the Legion. “Here, we want to keep it the same as it always has been and pay tribute to those who sacrificed, nothing more.”
“I want to thank everyone for coming and supporting this ceremony,” said Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal Judge Julie Scott. “It really shows what kind of a community we are that we still do this ceremony. It’s a real testament to the people of Whitehall and to the American Legion.”
Three Memorial Day ceremonies were held, starting with the annual Mass at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery. At the start of the parade, members of the legion stopped at the Naval Park to commemorate the day, followed by the rest of the parade and the services held in Veterans Park.
Along with the ceremonies, Cathy Aiken, Whitehall’s sole Gold Star mother whose son was killed in action in Vietnam, placed a wreath at both parks.
“Whitehall had 26 Gold Star mothers in World War II,” said Lafayette. “We gained more in Korea and even more in Vietnam. Let’s pray that Mrs. Aiken never has a replacement on this stage. It has been 39 years since Whitehall has lost someone to war, and that’s a good thing.”
Also speaking at the ceremony were Village Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti and Town Supervisor Vernon Scribner.
“These are the individuals that we must not allow to be forgotten this Memorial Day, the common soldier who died an uncommon death, the death of a hero,” said Scribner.
“The responsibility to remember their service and their acts is now ours so that they did not die in vain,” said Putorti. “Today is the day that out country honors the most significant sacrifice that a person can make.”