This year’s Veterans Day was special: it was the hundredth anniversary of the armistice that concluded World War I, the day that was once celebrated as Armistice Day. The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
The Lamouree-Hackett American Legion Post 72 held its traditional Veterans Day commemoration last Sunday, November 11 at the traditional 11 a.m. start time. Because of the cold weather, the solemn outdoors part of the ceremony was shortened to only the traditional prayers, the laying of a wreath at the monument to the unknown soldier, a rifle salute and taps.
The viewing of the post’s collection of artifacts from the country’s wars, led by curator William Payne, followed the ceremony, along with refreshments in the post’s building.
In his opening homily, deacon Hank Smith of Saint Mary of the Snow and Saint Joseph’s said the day is devoted to remembering those who served our country in the armed services. “We cannot remember every name or know every person who served, but we know this: On this special day we get to celebrate the great love and the sacrifices that so many made that we can live in this way.”
Gaetana Ciarlante sang The Star Spangled Banner, and Auxiliary president Caroline Mains placed a wreath at the wall of the unknown service member.
Post chaplain Paul Peyser reminded the attendees that the gathering on Veterans Day is “to remember all our veterans, living or dead who served our country in war or peace time.”
In his prayer, Rev. Peyser, addressing God, said, “We beseech you to usher into this world of confusion and doubt the peace and tranquility that can only come from you.” He also asked that God “be merciful to our honored dead,” and said we were grateful “for our priceless liberty and our inalienable right to enduring happiness.” He asked that “we carry in our hearts the ideals for which this nation exists.”
Past commander Jim Gage said he usually had a story or historical essay to read to the company on Veterans’ Day. Because the day was so cold, he said he decided to dispense with the story and simply ask that “if you meet a veteran, thank a veteran.”
In his closing homily, deacon Smith told veterans living and dead that “I wish I could know all of you. I wish I knew your names. I lie down at night knowing I’m safe, and I think before I go to bed I’m going to pray for you, and for your safety. I owe you for what you have missed in this life that you feel God’s presence.”
The deacon expressed the hope that veterans know they made the world a better place. “I’m just one person, but I speak for many,” he said.
Post chaplain Peyser took on the role of post musician as he played taps to close the ceremony following the firing of three volleys.
Following the ceremony, Gage said the story he had planned to tell involved the loss of a beloved trumpet by a soldier from Saugerties who used it to play for the troops in World War I. “He led the troops in battle, and he would play the national anthem on his trumpet,” Gage said. “They had to evacuate the area, and he left his trumpet there. The Germans captured the trumpet. After the war the allies recovered some items the Germans had taken from the Americans, and wouldn’t you know the trumpet was there. That trumpet was used in a Saugerties Veterans Day parade.”
Town councilman Paul Andreassen served in the Navy Seabees in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Diego Garcia from 1973 to 1977. “Four years; it was too long,” he said.
Fellow town councilperson Leeanne Thornton said, “I always come. I make all the events here. It’s important, I think, to recognize the veterans. So many of them are no longer with us. Especially on Memorial Day. It touches my heart when they play all the music from the services, and you see more each year that are not there, so I think it’s important on Veterans Day to really show you appreciate their service.”
Thornton praised event organizer Jim Gage as “the heart of the veterans here.”
Veterans Day is one of only a few days that the museum on the second floor of the post’s building is open to the public. Curator Bill Payne led spectators through the exhibits and explained the source of some of the artifacts on display.
Thornton said she generally goes up to see the museum in the Legion building, which is open only on a few patriotic holidays. Between this display and events at the Kiersted House, she added, Saugerties has an excellent sense of history.
Post commander Kevin Pendergast said the local post was established almost immediately after World War I. The war ended in 1918, and the post was chartered the following year.