SCHUYLERVILLE – The weather forecast called for overcast skies, with a possibility of scattered thunderstorms, possibly to match the tears loved ones who chose Saturday morning to honor their own veterans on Memorial Day.
Instead, as these veterans were honored, the skies cleared and the sun shone about the hundreds of friends, families and community members at the Gerald BH Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville who were gathering after a two-year hiatus.
“People are ready to go out, they are ready to feel the sun on their face and feel the fresh air,” said W. Scott Lamb, director of GBHS Saratoga National Cemetery. “They’re ready to do things like that – walk in parades, take part in ceremonies, cheer, sing, enjoy life, thank a veteran and think about what Memorial Day is and be a part of it.”
The annual event, now held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, welcomed veterans of all branches, their families and loved ones to come together to remember those who served.
Bill Schaff of Brunswick, the state captain of the New York Patriot Guard Riders, gathered with other members and veterans standing with American flags for the ceremony.
“We recognize and respect the life and service of all veterans and this is a day that we can collectively do this for all of these veterans not only buried here, but we commemorate them across the country,” Schaff said. .
Schaff said his group also installed small gold star flags on the graves of veterans killed in action buried at the Saratoga site.
The Memorial Day ceremony is an annual event for retired US Army Corporal Valerie Perez of Gansevoort – this year was the first time she attended without her father, veteran Manuel Perez, who died on last year at age 96.
She gave her father some credit for the predicted rain staying away from the annual event.
“He hated getting wet,” Perez said with a laugh. “These rainy days he was asking ‘Do you think maybe they’ll cancel this?’ No dad, they’re not going to cancel it.
The ceremony, the presentation of the colors, the singing of “God Bless America”, the firing of the military volley and the playing of “Taps” brought back memories for many, including Perez.
“I remember hearing ‘Taps’ the first time [in basic training], first night, 11 a.m. in the barracks,” Perez said. “It brings you home and makes you realize you’ve come so far, at least that’s what it does for me.”
Tara Hulette, of Colony, frequently visits Saratoga National Cemetery, sitting before her at the grave of her father, Kenneth L. Coons, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Korea.
“I was daddy’s little girl,” Hulette said. “We come here for all vacations. I try to climb as much as I can. I usually spend an hour or two here.
She was joined by her son, Ryder, daughter, Savannah and her husband, Nick.
On Saturday, she was not alone, joining others for the ceremony and time afterward to visit those buried there.
“It was nice to be able to see it virtually, but being able to do it in person is so much better because the experience is so much better,” Hulette said. “Hearing tapping, listening to the gun salute in person, seeing everyone in person is such a dark experience, it’s such a surreal experience.”
Lamb, a Navy veteran, summed up what he hoped Saturday would bring to attendees.
“You can still bring in your barbecues, you can still pop the top of your favorite drink and you can do all of that, but take a moment out of the weekend and remember what the weekend of the day is really about. Memorial Day,” Lamb said. “I think we did it today.”
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Categories: News, Saratoga County