Poignant Woodstock Memorial Day ceremony remembers the fallen

(Photos by Dion Ogust)

Woodstock honored its residents who have served and died in battle as the American Legion Post 1026 hosted the annual Memorial Day Parade, ending with a service at Woodstock Cemetery.

Shortly after noon, the parade kicked off from the Woodstock Playhouse, making its way up Mill Hill Road with the Onteora High School marching band keeping cadence and crowds lined the street to watch. Other participants included members of the American Legion, Catskill Mountain Pipe and Drum Band, Supervisor Bill McKenna, Councilwoman Laura Ricci, Councilman Reggie Earls, Woodstock Fire Department, Woodstock Rescue Squad, Woodstock Police Department and an antique Pegasus Footwear van driven by store owner Len Sapiro.

The parade turned onto Rock City Road and participants assembled in Woodstock Cemetery where a service was held for Woodstock’s fallen soldiers.


As is the yearly tradition, a wreath was placed on the memorial by the flag pole.

“This wreath is presented every Memorial Day, and although the flowers may wither, the spirit of which they are a symbol will last forever,” Post 1026 Commander Terry Breitenstein said.

Despite feeling a bit under the weather, Abbe “Miss G” Graber led the crowd in singing God Bless America. Walter Bollenbach read the names of those killed in action as Air Force Veteran Jerry Washington tolled the Keegan Bell outside the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center for every name read.
“Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes and way of life to go and fight on distant battlefields. Many of them didn’t even volunteer as they were drafted,” Breitenstein said.

“They were ordinary people who responded in an extraordinary way and in an extreme time with no knowledge of what was to come. They would soon learn and live by duty, honor and country.”

Casting aside politics, Supervisor Bill McKenna carried on the tradition of reading a poem from a soldier who was killed in battle.

This year he chose one written by Brooklyn-born 2nd Lt. John Hunter Wickersham, who wrote to his mother the day before he was killed serving in World War I in 1918.

The mist hangs low and quiet on a ragged line of hills,

There’s a whispering of wind across the flat,

You’d be feeling kind of lonesome if it wasn’t for one thing —

The patter of the raindrops on your old tin hat.

An’ you can’t help a-figuring — sitting there alone —

About this war and hero stuff and that,

And you wonder if they haven’t sort of got things twisted up,

While the rain keeps up its patter on your old tin hat.

When you step off with the outfit to do your little bit

You’re simply doing what you’re s’posed to do —

And you don’t take time to figure what you gain or lose —

It’s the spirit of the game that brings you through.

But back at home she’s waiting, writing cheerful little notes,

And every night she offers up a prayer

And just keeps on a-hoping that her soldier boy is safe —

The Mother of the boy who’s over there.

And, fellows, she’s the hero of this great, big ugly war,

And her prayer is on the wind across the flat,

And don’t you reckon maybe it’s her tears, and not the rain,

That’s keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?

There is one comment

  1. Abbe "Miss G" Graber

    Hey everybody, it’s Miss G,
    Just before everyone assembled at the Veterans Cemetery in Woodstock, an older friend of mine went to hug me and when her dog tugged on her lease we both were set off balance and crashed onto the stone sidewalk. I thought I would be able to sing but when I stood up twenty minutes later the pain riddled through me and I could hardly get the song out. I thank the crowd for understanding and finishing the song with me. We were both somewhat hurt but thankfully no bones were broken. ps. The dog was unharmed.
    Thank you for the opportunity to sing for you, see you 11/11 at 11:00 am to do it again.
    All My Best,
    Abbe “Miss G” Graber
    God Bless America

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