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News

Tupper Lake honors heroes on Veterans Day

Dan McClelland

Veterans, service men and women and civilians of Tupper Lake came together on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to remember and honor those who have fallen and have served in the line of duty for their country.

Gathered at the Tupper Lake War Memorial, on the blocked-off Park Street, community members braved the cold to pay their respects to the men and women who braved so much more.

In traditional fashion of a Tupper Lake service, the Rev. Rick Wilburn lead the opening prayers. The master of ceremonies, local AMVET commander, Ray Bigrow, welcomed the community to the service and introduced and invited the guest speaker, Col. Steve Reandeau, to approach the podium.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today’s ceremony. I’m honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to speak with you today on such an important occasion. We are here to honor our veterans and current service members, to remember the sacrifices they have made and continue to make and the courage it takes to defend our honor, duty and country.”

Reandeau then asked for a show of hands from all the veterans who were at the service that morning. “Thank you for your service,” he said to the men and women who lifted their hands at his request.

He continued, “it was a hundred years ago today, November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that the allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Compiegne, France, bringing the war we now know as World War I to a close.

“President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day the following year on November 11, 1919, with these words: ‘To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given america to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.’

“Originally, a two-minute suspension of business at 11 a.m. was followed by celebrations including parades and public meetings. Today we honor our veterans with gatherings such as this with less fanfare but no less gratitude. In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress made the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, switching the word ‘Armistice’ in favor of ‘Veterans’. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954.

“From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

“I left Tupper Lake on November 16 1975 with the full intent on serving four years in the Air Force and getting out with experience in my chosen career field. But then something interesting happened to me and many others I was stationed with. We found a camaraderie and bond that was strong.

“The Vietnam era had ended in July of that year and many of the older Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) told us how they were shunned in their local communities, mainly in cities. They felt wanted and at home in the military and realized that they were making a difference.

“This had a great impact on me and changed my life. I wanted to be part of this.

“Most of the time when we think of veterans we think of the combat soldier and rightfully so. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom and many more suffered debilitating injuries and post traumatic stress disorder making life difficult, for that we owe them our everlasting gratitude.

“However, many of the gains in our foreign policy came through the humanitarian relief efforts of our veterans such as assisting in hurricane or earthquake disaster recovery. In these cases the civil engineers take the lead along with our health professionals. We provide food, clothing, clean water and medical care to those in need and put a small amount of normalcy back into these grief stricken places allowing victims of disaster to get back on their feet. The American veteran did this with pride.

“Military life is not all action and high stress environments. Many young troops do thankless but valuable jobs. We call this tooth to tail, with tooth being the combat personnel and the tail being all the support troops who make it come together. Mechanics, transportation personnel, pay clerks, administrative specialists, morale welfare and recreation specialists and numerous other career fields that go along with being prepared for war and keeping that fighting edge. All contribute greatly to the end goal of ensuring the security of our great nation. The war fighters need a place to decompress when they get inside the wire, (base camp) and they need to have peace of mind knowing that there is an infrastructure in place filled with other soldiers, sailors, marines airmen and coasties to take care of them and their families when they are in harm’s way or even when they are stationed at a remote site.

“Veterans miss many of the life events we take for granted; being present at their child’s birthday parties or graduation, missing an anniversary, or being a young troop and stationed in a foreign land away from mom and dad for the first time during the holidays.

“Our veterans give up some of the freedoms we as americans have and do it willingly with a sense of duty and honor for a grateful nation.

“As former Congressman Rand Neugebauer stated, ‘while only one day of the year is dedicated solely to honoring our veterans, Americans must never forget the sacrifices that many of our fellow countrymen have made to defend our country and protect our freedoms.’”

In the tradition of a Veterans’ Day ceremony, the Tupper Lake High School band performed a number of patriotic pieces, including a service song medley of the Ballad of the Green Berets and Marches of the Armed Forces.

Also in tradition, community members and organization laid their respective wreaths at the base of the memorial.

The Tupper Lake Honor Guard, with additional non-honor guard military personnel then performed the ceremonial three-round rifle volley. Taps was performed by 11th grade student, Shannon Soucey who is the official Honor Guard bugler.

Before Reverend Rick Wilburn closed the ceremony with the closing prayer, the high school band performed Stars Over America, which is an arrangement of the Service songs melodies over America the Beautiful, ending with The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Later that afternoon, the Tupper Lake Honor Guard held a special Veteran’s Day service at Mercy Living Center to honor and pay respects to the veterans that live at Mercy Living Center and who were unable to attend the Veterans’ Day Ceremony at the war memorial.