BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - More than a dozen local veterans will be honored this Memorial Day weekend during a Tribute to the Troops multimedia event in Indian Lake, Long Lake and Tupper Lake.
The program, sponsored by the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, will feature the screening of pre-recorded interviews with U.S. servicemen and women and a concert by singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn, accompanied by her husband, award-winning hammered dulcimer player Dan Duggan.
The Tribute to the Troops will be held throughout the Memorial Day weekend: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 28 at the Indian Lake Theater; 7 p.m. Sunday, May 29 at the Tupper Lake High School; and 4 p.m. Monday, May 30 at the Long Lake Town Hall.
"It's an important salute to the troops in the area, doing it in an artistic way, having them tell their own stories," said Erin Barton, managing director at the Arts Center.
The program is designed to pay tribute to veterans - men and women - who served in all branches of the U.S. military. In keeping with this theme, the official songs of all branches will be performed, and veterans of those branches will be asked to stand up and be recognized.
Meanwhile, Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan are arranging and practicing their music.
One original song - "Dear Dad" - was inspired by a soldier's wife who wanted to send a musical Father's Day message from her three little boys to their father serving in Iraq. Once the song was complete, they all sang the song to Dad on Father's Day online - using the Skype video service. The couple now has four boys and a girl.
Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" will be on the playlist.
"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," written in 1967, was made famous because CBS initially refused to let Seeger perform it on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, deeming it as anti-establishment during the Vietnam War.
"I'm kind of a pacifist at heart, but I do believe in honoring our military, and I appreciate the sacrifices they make," Lynn said.
Tribute to the Troops is personal for Lynn, whose late father, Charlie Hemans, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. She also had three brothers serve in the military during the Vietnam War.
"I hope these songs evoke some emotion, some memories," she said.
Lynn - co-author of the book "Breaking Trail: Remarkable Women of the Adirondacks" - has written a special song for this program, honoring the women who have served in all wars and conflicts in American history. It is a parody of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and titled "Women also Served the Nation." Lynn works with Creative Healing Connections, a group that holds Women Veterans Retreats, and hears firsthand stories about the sacrifices they have made.
"I know how much these women appreciate being recognized for their commitment," Lynn said.
Lynn will also sing "Let Them In," a song written and recorded by Pennsylvania folksinger John Gorka. In a YouTube performance, Gorka said the song came to him as a poem from a friend whose mom was a nurse at a military hospital in the Phillipines during World War II. The poem's author is unknown.
In the song, the singer asks St. Peter to let the dead soldiers into Heaven and sings the refrain, "God knows how young they were, to have to die."
The Tribute to the Troops programs are open to the public. The cost is $10 general admission and free to veterans.
Alex Roalsvig, tourism director for the Town of Long Lake Department of Parks and Recreation, conducted all 19 of the video interviews, 18 men and one woman. She visited the homes of six veterans in Long Lake, videotaped three vets at the American Legion Parker-Benton Post 1392 in Indian Lake, and worked with Beth Johnson to speak with 10 veterans in Tupper Lake. These particular veterans served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
For Roalsvig, this was a way to hear stories from the front lines, stories she did not hear from her late father, who served in the military during the Cold War.
"I hope people will get a sense of sacrifice and commitment of our servicemen," she said. "It's a slice of history, particularly to the Adirondacks, of those who have seen the world and come back to settle here."
Conducting the interviews was an "eye opener" for Roalsvig, and she learned that serving in the military is a team effort, one you can't understand unless you serve, fighting side-by-side with others.
"It's bigger than they are," she said.
Roalsvig will be cataloging more than 12 hours of video to create a DVD of segments for the Tribute to the Troops program.