Memorial Day Events Honor Veterans
Veterans across the region were recognized over the Memorial Day weekend. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief reports on two events in Plattsburgh honoring those who have served the nation.
Every Memorial Day the American Legion Post 20 in Plattsburgh holds a ceremony to remember and honor veterans from all services. Wreaths are laid to remember those who have fallen in service to the country.
Post Commander Joseph Patnode expressed frustration at what he sees as a diminishment of patriotism among the general public. “Yesterday I was in the parade up in Chazy and the number of people that stood up and saluted our flag when we marched through you could count on one hand. This is truly disturbing to me. Our fellow soldiers that have died for this flag and our nation. We need to bring patriotism back into this country. I’m also the commander for the Civil Air Patrol. We had cadets that didn’t even know the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s disturbing. So every meeting we have the first thing we do, just like we do at our American Legion post, we stand up and we say the Pledge of Allegiance. I think we need to teach every child in this nation to say the pledge and what it stands for.”
Town of Plattsburgh Councilman Michael Cashman: “You know when I go back to work a lot of my coworkers will talk about great barbecues and reconnecting with family and friends. I’m going to talk about the amazing men and women that I got to engage in conversations with over this weekend. And I can tell you that patriotism is alive and well. My generation through all the generations of years past collectively we continue to speak the American story. We continue to wave that flag and together by memorializing and celebrating our veterans we will maintain a strong and healthy country.”
Earlier in the weekend, people gathered at a well-traveled bridge in the center of downtown Plattsburgh that spans the Saranac River. The Bridge Street Bridge has been part of the city’s history since the War of 1812 when it divided the British soldiers from American troops.
Vietnam Veteran Lanny LaValley approached city officials asking that the bridge be renamed to honor veterans. “How historical is this? From the War of 1912 right straight on through. Our presence here, the Air Force, the Navy, Army bases were here way back before the Air Force Base was here. This connects. It’s a connector artery to downtown from where the bases were stationed and now it’s Veteran’s Bridge.”
The mayor and city council enthusiastically agreed. With pomp and ceremony on Saturday including a flyover by a Homeland Security helicopter city officials officially renamed the span the Veteran’s Bridge. Assemblywoman Janet Duprey hopes people think about those who serve the country as they pass over the bridge. “As I drove across the bridge yesterday I thought about my 20 year old brother-in-law Arthur who was killed almost 47 years ago in Vietnam. I thought about the privilege that I’ve had of seeing our wonderful World War II heroes, the Greatest Generation; get on Honor Flights for their service. I thought of those we’ve lost. And I thought of those I know who are currently serving in our voluntary military. I can’t think of a better tribute than naming this Veteran’s Bridge.”
Mayor James Calnon said he and city councilors wanted to rename the bridge to honor veterans as soon as they heard the idea. “The thing we value most about our nation is our desire for peace. We are always striving to achieve peace. And that, I think, really typifies what veterans do for our nation. They give of themselves, often their lives, other injuries both visible and hidden, to get us from a period of peace back to another period of peace. And in that way there’s no better metaphor than a bridge. Naming a bridge in your honor is a great way of this community recognizing the tremendous service that our fallen soldiers and our surviving veterans, to recognize their sacrifice, their contribution and to thank them for continually protecting our peace and returning us to peace.”
Plattsburgh had active military facilities since the 1800’s until the Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995.