The annual Saugerties Firemen’s Fourth of July parade will step off sharply at 11 a.m., July 4, rain or shine.
While the firemen sponsor the event, the parade is really all about Saugerties veterans. For most of the last two decades the highlight of the parade has been seeing members of the “Greatest Generation” march. But as the years have passed, so too have those who served in World War II. Each year it’s getting more difficult to get those who are still left to march. Three World War II vets from Saugerties died this past year.
Many of them made up the Lamouree-Hackett Post 72 Legion Color Guard, which not only plays a big role in the annual parade but also serves as the honor guard at veteran funerals, visits elementary schools to talk about service and serves in Memorial Day and Veterans Day services.
When a member of the Color Guard dies he’s replaced with a younger member who served in either the Korean War or the Vietnam War. But those men, especially the ones who served in the Korean War, are getting on in years as well.
The younger service members aren’t joining the legion in the numbers past generations did, according to new Post 72 Commander Robert Chappelle, who served aboard the carrier USS Ranger during the Vietnam War.
“Although we are a fairly active Post and do close to 100 military funerals a year, we are not staffed to play much of a role with the newer veterans of today,” said Chappelle.
Many younger vets are more interested in settling down, finding a job and raising a family. They feel they don’t have the time necessary to devote to the Legion.
In a recent interview, Chappelle discussed the Legion’s role.
“Our Saugerties Post’s primary service has been and will remain to be giving all eligible veterans final military funeral honors. It is a sacred obligation of not just veteran or military organizations but all Americans to honor our deceased veterans. We perform these time-honored duties in the best traditions and with the greatest respect that we can muster. All members of the honor guard feel a great responsibility in carrying out these duties. We have done it in all kinds of weather conditions and you will rarely hear a single complaint even in the worst of these conditions. I have seen the older members of the guard struggle to the gravesites and serve nearly up to the service we perform for them.”
On the different missions of different Posts:
“There is not a right or wrong way as many Posts are places where veterans can gather and socialize while others are so much more civic-minded in their efforts to serve their communities that they would not even have a bar. I believe the proper way is to strike a balance between the two.
On the state of Post #72:
“The Post has been going through a period of change this past year and I hope to continue it while at the same time continuing a lot of the good things of the past. It is too early and too much is unresolved to talk about it yet, but we do have a few, I think, very good things planned that will change the Post considerably. It all depends on things beyond our control for it to happen. A lot of effort has been put into it by the commander [Ed] Altenau before me and by many others in the Post. If some of these good things occur during my tenure, it will be largely due to his and the efforts of a number of other members that they happen.”
On his role:
“The role I see for myself and all the officers of the Post is to try and set the goals that we can achieve with the assets we have available to us, then to turn this into actions that serves not only our veterans and our youth but also the entire community. I believe we have a very good team to do this with and am very much looking forward to it.”