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Massena honors veterans


MASSENA — Massena Amvets Post 4 Commander Francis “Bud” Byington used his Veterans Day keynote address Sunday as an opportunity not to only thank all veterans for their service, but to give special credit to the Amvets rifle squad.

“They do a magnificent job,” he said, adding that since the squad was formed nearly 30 years ago it has performed at more than 700 funerals, including at least 40 so far this year.

“Whenever I call them or someone calls them they are there,” he said.

Nov. 11 isn’t just about the rifle squad, though, Mr. Byington said; it’s a day for all veterans.

In that spirit, Massena observed Veterans Day on Sunday with a march by dozens of veterans from the American Legion post to the Massena Fire Hall for a service attended by a small number of residents. A luncheon then was held at the Amvets post. The march included members of the Amvets, VFW, American Legion, Korean War Veterans Association Post 284, Disabled American Veterans Post 171 and Marine Corps League Detachment 685.

Meanwhile in Ogdensburg, a crowd of about 150 residents gathered Sunday morning at Groulx Park to pay respect to those who served in the military in conflicts from the American Revolution to the global war on terrorism.

“I think the Lord’s looking down on us with the beautiful weather,” said Mert M. Haynes, vice commander of Ogdensburg’s Amvet Post 19, who was largely responsible for organizing the day’s events.

The Ogdensburg ceremony began with a VFW color guard’s presentation of the flag and the playing of the national anthem on a sound system. Wreaths were laid near the city’s veterans memorials by members of the Ogdensburg Amvets post, VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Daughters of the American Revolution, Elks Club and Cub Scouts Pack 2. They were joined by Mary and Steve Sovie, whose son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie, was killed in a training exercise in 2006 in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen.

The color guard introduced a new ritual to the ceremony with a presentation of the correct way to fold the American flag: a 13-step process with symbolic, Judeo-Christian meaning associated with each fold.

America’s veterans “served this great nation in times of peace and war and have done so for many years,” Mr. Byington said at the Massena ceremony. “These veterans are heroes. Whether they are decorated war heroes or peace time personnel, they volunteered to defend our nation and protect our freedoms.”

And as America continues to fight wars across the world, Mr. Byington said he hopes the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are welcomed home.

“It is not about whether or not you support the issues,” he said. “The issue is we must support the young men and women who are sent to defend us.”

Following the service Mr. Byington said he would like to see those returning veterans consider joining the Amvets or one of Massena’s other veterans clubs.

“As you can see a lot of us are older,” he said. “We would like to get some younger guys.”

Amvets is open to any honorably discharged military veteran. Because many of today’s service members have deployed overseas, they also are eligible to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Massena VFW Post 1143 Commander Verne K. Drew Jr. said he would love to welcome new members to the post.

“You had to be in the war to get in the club,” he said, adding while he belongs to “all the clubs,” the VFW holds a special place in his heart.

“Just like the Marines: I served in the Marines and to me that’s a special branch. It doesn’t take anything away from the other branches, but the Marines are special.”

Mr. Drew said on Veterans Day, he would like to encourage people to visit area veterans who are in nursing homes and unable to make it to events.

He also expressed disappointment with the small number of community residents who attended the Massena service or watched the parade.

“It’s really sad how many people didn’t pay their respect to the veterans. ... I would have liked to see a lot more people coming out,” he said.

One nonveteran in attendance was Thomas DeLosh, Raymondville, who carried an American flag at the rear of the march.

“I carry the flag to show respect,” he said. “I do it from the heart.”

Mr. DeLosh said marching in area parades was something he started doing several years ago.

“I always liked to watch parades when I was a kid,” he said. “But I never got a chance to be in a parade.”

Mr. DeLosh said he has also carried the flag in the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades in Norwood.

“I do it for the ones who can’t be here,” he said. “Maybe they’re at work or in the nursing home, but I know not everyone who wants to be here can be.”

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