BRANT LAKE - Joanne Ellsworth, commander of the Chestertown American Legion Post, looked out at the crowd surrounding the veterans memorial on the lawn of the Horicon Community Center.
Nearly 200 citizens turned out for Memorial Day ceremonies for Chestertown, Horicon and Pottersville, held to honor those in northern Warren County who dedicated their lives to serving the nation and protecting its freedom.
"May the souls of our comrades in their resting places around the world be held in our hearts always," Ellsworth said, particularly recalling the ultimate sacrifice made by Jeremiah Monroe of Brant Lake, a U.S. Army soldier who was killed in an
Afghanistan combat zone nearly two years ago.
"Let us not forget what the ultimate cost of freedom has been to keep this great nation great," Ellsworth continued, noting that citizens should extend the tribute to fire and law enforcement heroes as well as U.S. soldiers.
As the late-morning sun glittered on the Mill Pond nearby, Legionnaire Louis Little lowered the American flag behind the memorial to half-staff, with the assistance of several Boy Scouts of Troop 30.
Ellsworth then named a list of soldiers now on duty in Afghanistan, which includes Robert Hill, Paul Freebern, Robert Miller, Michelle Digert and Roy Mihill. The assembled crowd observed a moment of silence in prayer for their safety and service.
"May we keep those in harm's way in our thoughts," Ellsworth added.
As John McConnell of the American Legion 964 placed a POW-MIA banner on a ceremonial empty chair in front of the podium, Ellsworth said citizens should pay tribute to those who were captive or who were never located after combat.
"Let us not forget the prisoners of war or those missing in action, as well as our wounded warriors, who pay day after day for our freedom which physical or psychological battle scars."
Tina Maltbie - identified by Ellsworth as once having the nickname "Poppy Princess" - and her granddaughter Isabella Swartz, placed a poppy wreath at the veterans memorial.
Ellsworth read an essay that Maltbie had written 50 years ago for Memorial Day as a student at Horicon Central School. The essay detailed the patriotic reasons why to wear poppies distributed by veterans groups in exchange for donations - to pay tribute to veterans' service, and to raise money for the aid of disabled and hospitalized former soldiers.
Ellsworth also urged the crowd to remember the "Darkhorse" 3rd Battalion of Marines now on duty in Afghanistan, which had lost 12 Marines in only four days.
The ranks of the Horicon Volunteer Fire Department in the ceremonies were thin, as about 12 members of the agency's dive team were busy responding to a drowning in southern Lake George.
Horicon Firefighter Craig Smith, substituting for another firefighter who'd responded to the scene, placed a ceremonial wreath of flowers at the memorial.
As a salute to the departed, a firing squad of Legionnaires shot rifles in the air, prompting children to wince.
Local Eagle Scout Jacob Hill led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the North Warren High School Marching Band played "Grand Old Flag" under the direction of Colin MacInnis, Band Instructor at the school.
North Warren student and local singing sensation Lindsey Meade sang The Star-Spangled Banner and Proud to Be an American, and her strains were answered with robust applause.
Youngsters of Creative Opportunity Day Care Center, three and four years old, sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" after Ellsworth noted how the sport of baseball during wartime served as a beloved distraction to the nation.
Earlier, these 13 youngsters had marched in the parade, alongside a sign that read, "Thanks for Protecting Our Future," surrounded by star-shaped balloons in patriotic colors. For the procession, area Girl Scouts had been grouped on a festive float. Serving as Honor Guard for the parade were Sam Maltbie, Al Mundy, Louis Little, Ken Little, Nancy Bakemeier, and Frank Tucci. The procession featured the firefighters of Horicon, Chestertown and Pottersville. Joining the North Warren Memorial Day parade for the first time in recent history were members of Riverside Fire Co.
Also in the parade was a decorated military Jeep bearing a sign that read: "We Miss Daddy, Our Hero, Staff Sgt. Robert Hill."