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Displaying items by tag: Emma Nicholson

Friday, 18 December 2015 17:31

Remembering Our Fallen at Christmastime

SCHUYLERVILLE – On an uncommonly warm Saturday, December 12, upwards of 600 people gathered in the beautiful weather to lay 2,700 holiday wreaths at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.  

The ceremony began at noon at the main flagpole, consisting of the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, opening prayer, ceremonial wreath placing, recognizing all the military units and some fraternal organizations, and then closing remarks. All of the branches of the military were represented and participated in the services. The Cemetery provided a Civil Air Patrol color guard with 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. 

There was a special wreath presentation at several of the graves, including for the nine who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the grave of the unknown Civil War soldier, and the graves of three Medal of Honor recipients. The presentation was given by the Patriot Guard Riders and representatives of the Marine Corps League, as well as Gold Star families when possible.  

Students from Schuylerville Middle School participated, placing homemade wreaths on the unclaimed remains of some Veterans.  

“One of our ride captains, Joe Spodnick, has developed a nice relationship with those kids over the years,” said Bill Schaaf, Assistant State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders. “Part of what this program is, it’s teaching about the history, about honor and respect. Joe took a teaching moment with the kids, and I think they enjoyed it.” 

The Patriot Guard Riders of New York organize the annual event to remember fallen soldiers in concert with Wreaths Across America, the organization that trucks thousands of wreaths from Maine all across the country to ceremonies happening at noon local time on the same day in cemeteries nationwide. The event began locally 7 years ago; when 7 donated wreaths were placed on soldiers’ graves. 

 

The Patriot Guard Riders hope to one-day place a wreath on all 13,000 graves at Saratoga National Cemetery. To that end, they have arranged with Wreaths Across America to receive one free wreath for every two wreaths purchased. To obtain the “buy two, get one free” deal, donors must purchase a wreath through the Wreaths Across America website and enter the code “NY0057”. To learn more about the program, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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SCHUYLERVILLE – On Friday, June 5 at 1:00 p.m., the Patriot Guard Riders will lay to rest the remains of eight unclaimed veterans in the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville with full military honors and an escort of more than 100 motorcycles. All are welcome to attend.

These seven WWII veterans and one Vietnam veteran, for a variety of reasons, had no one to claim their cremated remains for all these years until local members of the Patriot Guard Riders of New York, Inc. took it upon themselves to research who they were and contact the state and federal organizations that could confirm their veteran status. 

“Six served in the U.S. Army, one in the U.S. Navy, and one in the U.S. Air Force,” said Patriot Guard Assistant State Ride Captain and Veteran Recovery Program State Coordinator Bill Schaaf. “Some veterans have been unclaimed for 20 years or more. In the past few years, we’ve even laid to rest WWI veterans who had been unclaimed for almost 50 years.”

The mission of the Patriot Guard Riders’ Veteran Recovery Program is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state, and federal organizations. 

“By securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes,” said Schaaf, “we honor and respect them for their service to our country.” 

About seven years ago, the Patriot Guard Riders of New York, Inc. was formed. It is a non-profit New York corporation affiliated with the national Patriot Guard Riders and organized exclusively for charitable and community service purposes. Members are a diverse group of patriots who come together to show support to U.S. service members, veterans, and their families, as well as first responders. Many also share a love of motorcycles, and many are also veterans, but neither is a requirement for membership. 

Schaaf has been involved with them since the beginning. “Nationally, most states work with the Missing in America Project,” he said, “but here in New York it’s us. There are many unclaimed remains to still search through and find out if they are veterans. Once confirmed of veteran status, they will receive burial benefits, and the urns are donated by the Northeastern Woodworkers Association, so there’s very little cost.”

The burial benefits include the draping of the flag, the service, uniformed honor guard, and all the traditional ceremonial honors given in posthumous gratitude for a veteran’s service. Friday’s event coincides with the Americade in Lake George, so it is expected to draw a large number of riding participants as well as any who wish to pay their respects. For more information about the Patriot Guard Riders or to read about the veterans being laid to rest, please visit www.pgrny.org.

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