By ALISSA SCOTT
Community members lay their hand over their heart as service men and women of the past, present -- and possibly the future -- marched down Guy Park Avenue during the Amsterdam Veterans Commission's annual Veterans Day parade.
Hundreds lined the streets Monday morning, leading up to a ceremony at the West End World War I Memorial.
Bagpipe player Mischa Murdoch, an Amsterdam High School student, led the Polish American Veterans, the American Legion Post 701, a group of Vietnam combat veterans, the local Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the Amsterdam Marching Rams and majorettes, the Amsterdam Elks Post 101, a cluster of local dignitaries, local Boy Scouts, cub scouts, Girl Scouts and brownies, and the Amsterdam Fire and Police departments.
From the sidewalks, community members waved American flags, dressed in red, white and blue themselves.
Temperatures hovered in the mid 30s, but Jim Arthurs, who wore an American flag-patterned shirt and waved a flag, said he would never complain about it.
"Our veterans were cold," Arthurs said. "It's the least we can do to show our support. It's because of them that we're able to stand out here."
After the hour-long procession, people circled the WWI monument as several spoke.
"These are our heroes," former judge and local author Robert Going told the crowd. "They walk here, on the streets of Amsterdam. There's hundreds of them, thousands ... And then came from every walk of life in this town. They had fathers who were doctors, judges and lawyers and cops and politicians, mill-owners and mill-hands, salesmen, shopkeepers, icemen and ride-men. Not all of them had stories that made it into a book or will make it into a book. But they all served their country when their country called. And whatever they were asked to do, they did."
State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said she owes a debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has served in a war. Recently, Tkaczyk cosponsored a measure ensures flags lowered to half-staff at the state Capitol in honor of a fallen soldier will be given to the deceased's family for free. She announced that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it.
Tkaczyk also noted that she is involved in a committee that helps veterans struggling after they return from war, and asked the audience to do their part in supporting them.
"When you see a veteran, please say thank you for their service, but also ask how they're doing," Tkaczyk said. "Give them a chance to tell their story."
Mayor Ann Thane recalled a moment she spent with her son at a Veterans Day parade years ago -- a moment when it became clear to her what the holiday really means.
"Regardless of politics, public furor, danger or exhaustion, our soldiers serve willingly, selflessly and courageously, that we may continue to live in peace and prosperity," Thane said. "They enter into situations of loneliness, peril, boredom and chaos that others may have hope. Those that have marched in parades have returned to us."
Three men were awarded the Veterans Commission city of Amsterdam Service Medal during the ceremony. Those include: Joseph A. Pepe, Bruce E. Raila and Bill Liberis.
"Where do we find such men?" Going asked the crowd, playing off the title of his new book. "Well folks, they walk among us. They're our relatives, our neighbors, our friends. They're our heroes."