Larry Burns and Jim Eberhart at Sag Harbor’s 2015 Memorial Day observance. Michael Heller
By Stephen J. Kotz
Sag Harbor’s annual Memorial Day parade will step off from the World War I Monument at Otter Pond at 9 a.m. Monday. The parade will proceed down Main Street, with stops at the Civil War Monument, the Municipal Building, and the Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge before concluding at Marine Park, where there are monuments to those who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
Robert Ratcliffe, a Sag Harbor native who served with the United States Marine Corps from 1967 to 1971, including two tours in Vietnam, will give this year’s keynote address.
“My talk will be about remembrance,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “That is really what Memorial Day is about. It’s not a celebration but a remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And how do you do this without glorifying war?”
Sag Harbor, he said, “has done a fantastic job of remembering and honoring those who have served and given their lives.”
Mr. Ratcliffe said he would likely draw on his experience as a participant last year in “The Telling Project,” in which servicemen and their family members gave first-person accounts of their experiences.
“We had two participants, one a mother who lost her only son and one a stepdad who lost his stepson,” Mr. Ratcliffe said of JoAnn Lyles, the mother of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2008, and Dr. Frank Kesler, the stepfather of Shelter Island’s Joseph Theinert, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
“The fact is that we had to practice over the weekend before our performances and I heard their stories time and time again,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “Not only the sacrifice their children made, but they told us about their lives prior that, because there was a life before there was a death. And whenever you remember the person as whole, not just as a soldier, you are helping with the healing process.”
Mr. Ratcliffe said he joined the Marines in 1967, two years after graduating from Pierson High School, but did not talk much about his experiences until he took part in “The Telling Project.”
“It is a humbling experience to have to talk, but it is an honor to be asked,” he said.
David Pharaoh, the commander of the Sag Harbor’s Chelberg & Battle Post 388 of the American Legion, said the parade would be tweaked slightly this year. The Sag Harbor Community Band, which in the past has performed on Main Street and at Marine Park, will only play at the park this year, in an effort to streamline the event.
Plus, he said, golf carts will be provided for those veterans who are unable to march the entire parade route.
Memorial Day observances will also take place in East Hampton, where a wreath will be dropped into the Atlantic Ocean at Main Beach at 9 a.m. in memory of those who lost their lives at sea, and a parade will step off from Guild Hall at 10:30 a.m., making its way to Hook Mill, where Charles Valleau, the commander of the East Hampton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, will give the keynote address..
In Southampton, veterans will gather at the First Presbyterian Church at 10:15 a.m. for a short parade to Agawam Park, where the annual Memorial Day observance organized by the Village of Southampton Commission on Veterans Patriotic Events, starts at 11 a.m. Peter Fertig, the president of “Walk of Heroes,” an organization that celebrates Major League baseball players who put their careers on hold to serve during World War II, will be the guest speaker.
In Bridgehampton, there will be a gathering at the war monument at the corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road at 9 a.m., sponsored by the Bridgehampton Fire Department that will include a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a VFW honor guard, and a performance by the Bridgehampton School Band.