Memorial Day 2014--Village Mayor and U.S. Army Reserve Major Heath Tortarella and his brother, Luke Tortarella, a Marine, raise the flag at Rhinebeck cemetery while the gathered residents salute.  Sarah Imboden/The Observer.
Memorial Day 2014--Village Mayor and U.S. Army Reserve Major Heath Tortarella and his brother, Luke Tortarella, a Marine, raise the flag at Rhinebeck cemetery while the gathered residents salute. Sarah Imboden/The Observer.

In Rhinebeck, flag-raisings and a tribute to the troops mark Memorial Day

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Rhinebeck’s Memorial Day parade and ceremonies honored veterans with all the pride and enthusiasm of long-held tradition.

The parade, organized by American Legion Post #429, stopped first in front of town and village halls for simultaneous flag-raisings: on the village side, Mayor Heath Tortarella, in his U.S. Army Reserve dress uniform, and his brother, Luke Tortarella, a Marine, also in uniform, did the honors; on the town side, 50 feet away, their father, Rod Tortarella, who served in the Army, and John Dubois, who served in the Marines, did the same.

A wreath was also placed by Navy Vietnam veteran and American Legion member Alan Coon at the Doughboy statue, next to the municipal parking lot. The statue is a memorial to the soldiers of World War 1.

Proceeding through a village lined with people of all ages, those in uniform received a hearty round of applause from the onlookers. Members of American Legion Post #429 led the parade, which included fire fighters from the Hillside, Rhinebeck and Rhinecliff fire departments, along with many of their engines, as well as Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops, Girl Scouts, Little League, Soccer League, Karate Club, local officials, the high school band, the American Legion Band and the Columbia & District Pipe Band of Hudson, along with many more.

After another flag-raising at the post office, the parade headed to the cemetery on Route 9 and Mill Road where a crowd of about 100 gathered. The invocation was given by Pastor Will Starkweather of the Third Lutheran church.
“As we gather to remember, let us never forget that you would have us pray also for our enemies. Bring an end to conflict among the nations,” he said.

Former Mayor and Army veteran Pete Sipperley then read the thinning of the ranks, a list of Rhinebeck veterans who died since last Memorial Day. The American Legion Band played an armed forces medley, and then veteran and longtime resident Alan Coon spoke.

Coon said Memorial Day has come to mean more to him over the years, even as he recalled enjoying the day as a boy in Rhinecliff. “Memorial Day is a day for Americans to reconnect with their history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideal that we cherish,” he said, noting that the first such remembrance day in Rhinebeck was held in 1880.

“To properly honor our dead, we must also honor our living. Your presence today and that of the people gathering all across America, is a tribute to those troops and their families. It is a way to say we remember those soldiers who shivered and starved through the winter at Valley Forge, to the doughboys who crouched in the muddy trenches in France, to the platoons in the jungles of Vietnam, and the young men and women patrolling the mountains of Afghanistan,” he concluded.

Then high school band members played taps and the American Legion firing squad gave a gun salute. The high school band played “The Star Spangled Banner” while the flag was raised, again by the Tortarella brothers. The American Legion Band played “America the Beautiful” while wreaths were laid by Jennifer Frevele for the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, John Ochs, a World War II veteran for the American Legion; Sarah Hermans for Rhinebeck Daughters of the Revolution; Howard Traudt, for VFW #9255; Warren Segrist, Commander of the Sons of the American Legion; and Bob Belcher for the Red Hook-Rhinebeck Elks. A wreath was also laid at the grave of Levi P. Morton, former Vice President of the U.S., by Mary Rutherford. The ceremony concluded with a benediction by Pastor Starkweather.

On the way back into the village, the American Legion color guard stopped twice; once at Legion Park and once more at the Legion hall for flag raisings, before everyone enjoyed refreshments inside.

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