by Dan McClelland
Over 100 residents of the area joined Tupper Lake veterans' organizations Friday morning to pay tribute to all those who served our nation in the military during the annual observance at the Veterans' Park on Park Street.
This year's remembrance of the contributions of veterans featured not a guest speaker, as in most years past, but a demonstration dedicated to those missing in action or prisoners of war using a symbolic table setting.
Master of ceremonies this year was retired Lt. Col Mark Moeller, who welcomed the crowd that overcast morning.
“I want to extend a special welcome to all the veterans here today,” he stated.
Many of this community's war veterans stood along the wall of the State Theater which border the park, a good number of them in uniform.
The service began and ended with prayers by Deacon James Ellis, an American Legion member here.
“Our Veterans' Day coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I,” Mr. Moeller began.
The retired Army officer and commander of the American Legion post here said he “googled” Veterans Day 2016 and the first thing that came up on his computer was a listing about free meals for veterans.
“Veterans' Day is not about free meals; it's not about a greatdeal on a new mattress or 'huge' savings on a Billy Fuccillo car. On this day we should focus on the promise our nation made to its veterans.
“Are we doing the best we can to care for our veterans...especially those who have come home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan and our veterans who are older and who are in need of specialized services? What are we doing to extend mental health services?
“Here is what Abraham Lincoln said about veterans during his second inaugual address: 'Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.'”
“With the words, 'To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,' President Lincoln affirmed the government's obligation to care for those injured during the war and to provide for the families of those who perished on the battlefield. Today, a pair of metal plaques bearing those words flank the entrance to the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”
“The election is over- thank God- now it's time to hold our elected officials accountable when it comes to better fulfilling that pledge made by President Lincoln over 150 years ago.
“In the spirit of remembrance, we'd like to explain the meaning behind the POW/MIA table of honor.”
Mr. Moeller pointed to the small wooden table in front of the Tupper Lake War Memorial, which carries the names of all those from Tupper Lake who served this nation in war time during past wars.
“The table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs or MIAs...we call them brothers and sisters. They are unable to be with us this morning and so we remember them. It's been said that this tradition was started by the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots' Association...the so-called River Rats of Vietnam- and it spread to other branches of the military.”
Lee Savard, who is active in the American Legion post here, and VFW Post officer and town councilwoman Tracy Luton assisted with the setting of the table.
“This table set for one is small- symbolizing the frailty of one person alone against his oppressors...remember...
“The tablecloth is white...symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms...remember...
Mr. Savard and Ms. Luton spread the tablecloth on the table.
A single red rose was delivered next. “The single red rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return. The red ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing...remember.
“The candle, the candle is lit...symbolizing the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit...remember..
“A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate...remember...
“There is salt upon the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate...remember...
“The glass is inverted...they cannot toast with us this morning...remember...
“The chair...the chair is empty. They are not here....remember...
“Remember! All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you...remember.
“Remember...until the day they come home...remember...until the day they are accounted for.”
The demonstration was following by the traditional laying of wreaths by various community groups and local governments, including the village and town, the VFW and American Legion posts, the Marine Corps League, another sponsor of Friday's observance, the Tupper Lake Honor Guard, the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department and its auxiliary, the Tupper Lake Knights of Columbus, the Tupper Lake Moose Lodge and the local boy scouts and girl scouts, among others.
The Tupper Lake Honor Guard members again performed their annual tribute to veterans including the firing of three volleys.
In closing, Mark Moeller paid tribute to the members of the high school band, under the direction of Laura Davision, who he said gave up their day off school to entertain the community and observe Veterans' Day with its members.
The band did a great job with several patriotic numbers including its popular medley of the official anthems of the various arms of the U.S. military service. That performance generated robust applause from those in attendance.
The veterans' organizations invited all in attendance to a free lunch at the VFW Post after the ceremony.
by Dan McClelland