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Town of Wallkill residents paid tribute to fallen soldiers during a Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on May 29.
Barry Schnipper, the first vice commander of American Legion Post 1181 in the Town of Wallkill, started the day’s program by citing the word “creed.”
“It is a set of guiding principles in life, a set of ethics that something is greater than self,” he said before reading the American Soldier’s Creed aloud.
The fall of a local young man, 20-year-old Kenneth VonRonn, while serving as an Army Sergeant in Iraq 18 years ago was highlighted at the ceremony.
Councilman Eric Johnson, who taught VonRonn as a tech teacher at Pine Bush High School, remembered him as a student who was into hands-on work and always ready to lend a hand.
“Every time we would have a conversation, his end goal was to be a paramedic,” Johnson said. “At that time, the war was pretty scary, but he put everything aside for his country.”
A sample of the last letters soldiers wrote before they died was read at the ceremony.
“Even as I write, I am expecting to be called away. The time is now ripe for the moment when we go over the top and advance the enemy trenches … I have made my peace with God, and I’m trusting in Christ, my savior, to bring me eternal light,” one letter reads.
Town of Wallkill Supervisor George Serrano said at the ceremony that as people enjoy the unofficial start of the summer on Memorial Day, they should take a moment to remember the sacrifices made by American service members who did not make it home.
“Those who sacrificed, they did so, so that we can stand and sit here today to enjoy our great freedom in this country,” Serrano said. “Please know that your sacrifices will never be forgotten.”
Deputy Supervisor Mark Coyne added that the best way to remember them is to lead a good life.
“When I think about this, I am reminded of the scene of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ when the older Private Ryan visited the grave of Captain John Miller, he says, ‘I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned [what all of you have] done for me,’” he said.
“I have to think that this is all that these [men and women] would want from us: be good people, be productive members of society, and pass down the freedom to the next generation.”
American Legion Post 1181 has hosted the annual Memorial Day ceremony in the town for almost 10 years, according to Schnipper.
Chartered in 1937, the post has 62 paying members and looks to recruit more veterans, post commander Jim Scali told The Epoch Times.
“The only requisite is that you had an honorable discharge and that you served at least one day in active duty,” he said, adding that the annual membership is $36.
The post members also run a signature patriotism program where they visit local schools regularly and teach children about patriotism through a half an hour session.
Since the program’s inception in 2015, it has reached tens of thousands of students, according to Scali.
On the same day, the Town of Wallkill Veterans Memorial Wall Committee members also hosted an event at Texas Roadhouse to raise money for security cameras, lights, and other enhancement gear.
The memorial wall is expected to finish in two years, with most expenses covered by a $175,000 state grant.