Remembering those who gave their lives in service to their country
Thousands of people turned out across the Rochester area and around New York state on Monday to
pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives for their country.
Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend. That was the general sentiment expressed by a lot of the active and retired military members that WXXI News spoke with at the city’s annual parade down East Avenue and Main Street where hundreds turned out to watch that longstanding tradition.
Charlton Harley is a Chief Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy, based in Rochester and he realizes people have a lot of other things on their mind day to day, but he hopes that Memorial Day serves as a reason to pause and give thanks.
“A lot of military members have made great sacrifices and some of those sacrifices have either been forgotten or never seen,” said Harley. “So this gives us a second to take a pause to remember those who have sacrificed either the most or a great deal to keep this nation free.”
Kevin Johnson fought in the Vietnam War as a member of the Seabees, those are Navy construction battalions.
It’s been about 50 years since he served, but Johnson said he still thinks a lot about the friends that he lost in that war.
“Almost every day…they’re a good bunch of guys. We wouldn’t have this country if it wasn’t for those who lost their lives," said Johnson.
Johnson said that he and his former crewmates still get together occasionally to share stories and remember those who are no longer here.
Governor Kathy Hochul and other dignitaries marked Memorial Day in Seneca County, at what is New York’s first-ever State Veterans Cemetery. That cemetery was established earlier this year with the transfer of land ownership from Seneca County to New York state.
Hochul called Memorial Day “a day of remembrance, a day of reverence, but also a day of reflection,” and she asked everyone to recommit themselves to a United States of America.
“But it only stays united, if we continue ourselves to be soldiers, some in uniform, but some civilians, soldiers to protect the fundamental freedoms that our founding fathers envisioned,” Hochul said.