WARRENSBURG - With American flags gently waving overhead and military color guards at attention, local veteran John Peluso stepped up to the microphone and looked over the assembled citizens - both local residents and motorcyclists visiting town for Warrensburg Bike Week.
"May we never forget military personnel who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives in the line of duty," he said.
About 70 people assembled in Frederick H. Flynn Memorial Park Monday to honor the citizens of Warrensburg and Thurman killed in combat.
In attendance for this Warrensburg Veterans' Memorial Ceremony, now anticipated to be an annual event, were members of the VFW Post No. 4821 and the American Legion Post 446 - both based in Warrensburg - and the honor guard of the Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co.
Joining them were representatives of the various branches of the service, including local citizen Kendra Raymond on behalf of the Marine Corps, two Army National Guard soldiers based in Glens Falls, and a representative of the U.S. Navy base in Saratoga Springs.
Peluso welcomed the military personnel.
"We express our appreciation to you for your commitment to your fellow citizens in preserving our freedom," he said.
Peluso noted how people in small, rural communities tend to reach out and help each other, and how this spirit prompts them to serve in the military, leading to a disproportionately high number of people - 27 from Warrensburg and Thurman since World War I - giving their lives on behalf of our nation, he said.
"I truly hope we don't have to add any more to this list of those killed in action," he said.
Peluso as well as Warrensburg Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty welcomed the soldiers and veterans, plus they extended a welcome to the motorcyclists who were joining in paying their respects.
"Welcome to Warrensburg and have a good time," Geraghty said to the motorcyclists.
The ceremony concluded with a the local veterans' color guard firing a 21-gun salute, and then taps was sounded, with two vintage World War I planes conducting a dual fly-over in formation -the second pass not far above the treetops - to the crowd's delight.
Local Funeral Director John Alexander was piloting one of the vintage planes, and his friend Don Latterell of North Creek was behind the throttle of the other one.
Alexander's son David had been on the ground, radioing the two pilots to synchronize the fly-by with the playing of taps.
A benediction was offered by Keith Turcotte of Blood-Bought Motorcycle Ministries, hailing from Lakeland Fla.
The ceremony was also boosted by a convoy of military vehicles representing the New York-Penn Military Vehicles Collectors Club. This presentation was arranged by Don Bagwell of Warrensburgbikeweek.com, co-organizer of the ceremony.
Bagwell, on behalf of various sponsoring local businesses, held a reception following the memorial ceremony for the bikers, many of them from out-of-town.
Held on the lawn of the Griffin House Bed & Breakfast, the reception featured a performance of rock 'n roll by the Chained Lightning Band.
After the proceedings, Peluso said he and Bagwell have plans on boosting the attendance substantially in future years, and adding a procession of motorcyclists down Main Street to the park to launch the ceremony.
"We really hope the memorial event grows from here," Peluso said. "We want to promote it in conjunction with Warrensburg Bike Week, because local residents really accept the bikers that attend, and they in turn have respect for the town," Peluso said.