It’s 9:50am on a gorgeous, though deceptively cold, Monday morning, and the village of Red Hook bursts with displays of patriotism.
People from all walks of life and corners of town flock to the nearest sidewalk shade with fold-out chairs and red, white and blue regalia in anticipation of the coming parade. Off in the distance, you can hear the muffled strains of the “Rocky” theme and “The Star Spangled Banner,” as performed by the Red Hook High School band.
As the parade comes through the center of town, the brass section is preceded by an assortment of classic cars, baseball teams and veterans clad in the uniforms of their respective services. Fire trucks and convertibles erupt with the customary assortment of candy, which is dispensed on all sides and joyously retrieved by scrambling children.
It is Memorial Day 2013.
The air of excitement winds down as the parade comes to a solemn close at the soldiers’ memorial and garden at the north end of the village.
Bystanders congregate around three granite stones with 31 names that span across four wars. On the north side, seven veterans stand in a row for the 21-gun salute; to their left is the color-guard, whose flags are reflected in the memorial.
Multiple speakers, including Mayor Ed Blundell and County Executive Marc Molinaro, talk during the ceremony.
Blundell urges the crowd, “Look around you, at your friends, your neighbors, your schoolmates and at our park … just take a moment to quietly appreciate that these veterans died for us here, in Red Hook, across the world and across our country.”
Molinaro notes, “The founders of this nation knew it would take generation after generation, it would take toil, it would take work, it would take blood and sadly lives to protect the freedom, liberty and justice they had envisioned every human, every American would celebrate within this land.”
All in attendance stand in somber silence as the names of the 31 young men who never returned to Red Hook are read aloud; each is accompanied by the release of a white dove.
The faces of civilians and veterans alike display the grim reverence of loss, one that is personal yet simultaneously felt by the entire community.
Asked what this day means to him, Chuck Simmons of Red Hook, a retired Navy senior chief, replies, “Today is in remembrance of my friends that never made it home.”