As Pandemic Recedes, Public Observance Of Memorial Day Returns To Sag Harbor

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A veteran stands in formation and listens during a ceremony in front of the Main Street firehouse during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday. MICHAEL HELLER

Dank weather and a solid gray sky did not deter a large crowd from descending on Sag Harbor’s Main Street Monday for the first public Memorial Day parade in two years. Last year’s public observance of the nation’s most solemn holiday was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keynote speaker former U.S. Army Captain Michael Dee differentiated between Veterans Day, a day when the contributions of all veterans are celebrated, and Memorial Day, a day when the country pauses to honor those who died in war.

“On Veterans Day, we bask in the emotions of joy and thanks,” he said. “On Memorial Day, we wade in the deep waters of complex emotions: sadness, grief, rage, guilt, loneliness.”

Mr. Dee said it was essential that the broader community provide support for those who have lost friends or loved ones to war. “It doesn’t matter if the loss happened 50 years ago or last year,” he said. “Grief doesn’t follow a linear pattern. It is always there.”

He said showing up for a Memorial Day observance shows those who have suffered a loss that their friends and neighbors care. “That’s why we are here today,” he said. “We are demonstrating as a community we are here for those dealing with loss.”

And he asked those who had lost a loved one to take solace in that thought. “Those of you hurting and dealing with loss, whether your loss is known or unknown, please look around and see the people that are here for you,” he said. “Know that your loved one, your friend, your soldier, sailor, airman, marine, is remembered and your loss is acknowledged.”

The theme was echoed by Roger King, the commander of Post 9082 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Bill Stafford, the commander of Chelberg and Battle Post 388 of the American Legion.

In his short address, Mr. King pointed out the many life-altering decisions made by those who lay down their lives for the country and urged that their sacrifice be remembered at Memorial Day.

“There is nothing more hurtful than when someone says, ‘Enjoy the long weekend’ when Gold Star families cannot enjoy any weekends,” he said.

Mr. Stafford, the American Legion’s new commander, said, “In each conflict and war that the United States has become involved in, it was the unwavering devotion to our country’s guarantee of freedom for all that motivated veterans to enlist in the military. In the months and years that followed, many lost their lives in upholding our country’s unwavering commitment to those ideals. We are here today to honor those heroes.”

Monday’s parade, led by local veterans, began at the World War I Monument at Otter Pond, as a handful of onlookers gathered in front of houses on upper Main Street, many waving small flags.

The parade, including members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, as well as the American Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary, stopped at the Civil War Monument at the convergence of Main and Madison streets, where wreaths were laid.

There, former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Dan Mulvihill read what is commonly referred to as General Logan’s Order, which, when issued by General John A. Logan in 1868, called for the decoration of the graves of those soldiers who had died in the Civil War and set the stage for what would become the traditional Memorial Day observance. After an honor guard fired off a three-volley salute, Maximus Tiska played Taps, and young boys dashed out to pick up shell casings.

The procession made its way to the Sag Harbor Fire Department at the Municipal Building, as well as the Jordan A. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, where similar, brief wreath-laying services were held before heading to Marine Park, where the Sag Harbor Community Band performed, and the speeches were delivered.

Wreaths are tossed into the water to remember lost seamen during a ceremony in Marine Park during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
Guest Speaker Michael Dee during a ceremony in Marine Park during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
Sag Harbor VFW Commander Roger King during a ceremony in Marine Park during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
Wreathes are placed at the war memorial at the intersection of Main and Madison Streets during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
In a long-standing tradition, a large American flag is raised against the American Hotel in preparation for the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
Sag Harbor firefighters stand in formation during a ceremony in front of the Main Street firehouse during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21

Local officials march together as the parade makes its way down Main Street during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
The parade makes its way down Main Street during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21
Maximus Tiska plays Taps during the ceremony at the war memorial at the intersection of Main and Madison Streets during the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremonies in Sag Harbor on Monday, 5/31/21

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