LAKE GEORGE - The phrases of God Bless America, sung by Dave Studnicky of North Creek echoed off the cliffs atop Prospect Mountain during the 40th annual P.O.W. /M.I.A. Ceremony held Sunday.
U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Bruce Sears, guest speaker for the event, gave a crisp salute to the American flag as it was lowered to half-staff in honor of our nation's soldiers missing in action or held as prisoners of war.
A North Creek resident, Sears has recently returned from Iraq after his second tour of duty in the Mideast.
Sears told the dozens of veterans and citizens attending of how Abraham Lincoln had called for a rebirth of liberty, relating it to the soldiers whose fate is still unknown.
"We cherish freedom, and we cannot forget that these brave people were born out of sacrifice, bravery and devotion to a purpose larger than self," he said. "By our gathering here, we have shown we have not forgotten you."
Sears said that while serving in Iraq, he had been stationed at Camp Spiker, named for Michael Spiker, a serviceman who was the first soldier of the conflict to be listed as missing in action. The daily respects that other soldiers paid him daily, brought meaning to their mission, he said.
"POWs and MIAs touch our lives every day, but we may not know it," Sears said.
Sears recalled how he looked up to fellow local resident Joe Miner, who'd been a prisoner of war, and came home to North Creek to serve as a firefighter and scout leader.
Sears noted with pride that he was now following in Miner's footsteps, serving as a firefighter and leader of the same scout troop.
The Johnsburg High School Band, 90 pieces strong, offered several patriotic selections for the ceremony.
About half the participants in the mountaintop ceremony were motorcyclists, who were invited to be involved for the second consecutive year by North Creek Legionnaire Terry Waterston, who has organized the Prospect Mountain POW-MIA ceremony for 18 years.
Wearing their club "colors" emblazoned on their leather jackets, the several dozen bikers had earlier led a two-wheeled procession to the summit to launch the event.
During the ceremony's proceedings, the bikers, representing the Patriot Guard, Legion Guard and Red Knights motorcycle groups, stood at attention holding large American flags, as they had in their thunderous parade up the mountain.
Holding one of the flags in the lineup, biker Don Amorosi said he had joined the ceremony to show families of missing soldiers that they will always be remembered.
"I don't care if you're on two wheels, four wheels or 18 wheels, participating in an event like this is terribly important in raising the visibility of the POW-MIA issue," he said. "We have an obligation to keep it in the forefront among Americans."
After the ceremony, participants and spectators socialized were presented with refreshments at the Lake George American Legion Post No. 374.