HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- The Hastings-on-Hudson Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony occurred on U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Sy Schlachter's 89th birthday, so he attended the events before heading off to his birthday celebration Sunday, May 25.
"I served in World War II, and we lost many of our friends, so I think it is very important to be here," Schlachter said as he sat at the ceremony in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in the village. "I never even shot a water pistol before going to war, but we did our best. It's good that people are out to remember the ones who died."
Blessed with perfect late spring weather, villagers and visitors -- firefighters, local bands and pipers, Scouts, Westchester County and local politicians and honored veterans in convertible cars -- took part in the annual event, marching down Main Street and along Warburton Avenue.
The event, organized by Parade Coordinator Lisa O'Reilly, featured Grand Marshal George Gevas and a welcome home to a contingent of sailors and a guest of honor, Adm. Dickson R. Smith from Fleet Week.
Hastings High School student Maddy Murphy sang a perfect rendition of the National Anthem. Keynote speaker Major Johnathon T. Belmont spoke eloquently about finding time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice despite "memories being blurred as we go on with our day-to-day lives."
Belmont recalled the scene in the film "Saving Private Ryan" in which the Tom Hanks character, who led his men on a search for the last surviving Ryan brother, lay dying when he spoke to Private Ryan and said "Earn this" as an homage the men who were killed in war.
"So, let that be our charge (earn this) today -- with this day and the 364 that follow, earning the sacrifice of more the 1 million patriots who have died in defense of our country and the ideals since it's inception," Belmont told the crowd. "God bless our departed heroes and their families, our veterans and service members."