Fishers Island Celebrates Memorial Day 2017 with Remembrances

Master of Ceremonies Bob Brooks greeted everyone as the Memorial Day Parade 2017 participants gathered at the American Legion Post 1045’s front circle, newly named in memory of veteran and life member Dick Grebe.

Vietnam War Army veteran Tim Patterson set up the small cannon that was loaned by Marine veteran John Ski, a past commander of the American Legion. Tommy Doyen, a native of Fishers Island, was given the honor to fire the cannon. John gave the orders to fire the cannon and start the parade exactly at high noon.

The parade of State Troopers, volunteer Fire Department members, Fire District commissioners, Island clergy, and veterans proceeded to the Village Green for the remembrance with patriotic tunes played by the marching Eastern Long Island Police Pipe and Drums Corp.

Flag bearers included fire fighters Dirk Harris carrying the American flag, Courtney Allan with the Fire Department flag, and Bob Rogers carrying the American Legion flag. The Color Guard was made up of Army veteran Patty Walker, Vietnam War  veteran Tim Patterson, and active reservists Tony Meschetti and Jared Clarke. Korean War Army veteran Joe Rogan commanded this squad.

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Photo Credit: Jane T. Ahrens

At the remembrance ceremony at the Green, Bob Brooks introduced Union Chapel’s Rev. Candace Whitman who gave the opening and closing prayers.

Anthony (Tony) Helfet is a Vietnam War veteran and U.S. Marine Captain who was a platoon commander in 1968 and 1969. Captain Helfet’s Memorial Day Remarks:

When I was young I had the honor and privilege to lead United States Marines in battle. I also have seen Marines face down on the battlefield never to rise again. It still haunts me 47 years later.

I would like to make Memorial Day personal for everyone here. Imagine it is December 1941. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States is suddenly at war with Germany and Japan. Ultimately, 12 million young American men and women will put their hands up and say “my country first, my safety second”.

Now let’s assume a son or a father or a brother or a sister in your family volunteers and goes to war – and does not return. Think about how devastating this is. Their sacrifice is a life not lived to its full potential. Also, think about the grief and anguish felt by the remaining family for generations to come.

Let me elaborate on the extent of the sacrifice. In the Revolutionary War, 25,000 died in battle; War of 1812, 15,000 died in battle; Civil War, 750,000 out of a population of 30 million died in battle; WWI, 116,000 killed in action; WWII, 405,000 killed in action; Korea, 36,000 killed in action; Vietnam, 58,000 killed in action; and inthe Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, 7,000 to date have died.

These are not abstract numbers. These are cherished members of a family lost forever.

I would ask of you fervently two things: First, don’t think of this ultimate sacrifice once a year. When you pass a war monument or cemetery – honor their memory. And second, when you vote for a congressman, senator, or president, vote for those who you think will treasure our young men and women. Consider those candidates who will only risk our national treasure to wars that are vital and necessary for our nation’s security.

Thank you very much for the honor of asking me to speak here today.

~ Tony Helfet, retired, U.S. Marines

Chris Dollar, music instructor for Fishers Island School, played Taps at the end of the service as Beth Stern Grebe laid a wreath at the war memorial in memory of her husband and Army veteran Dick Grebe and in remembrance of all who have served.

The Eastern Long Island Police and Drum Corp played Amazing Grace before everyone paraded back to the American Legion for a festive picnic lunch.

Sunday morning, the Kinsolving family whet out on the Sea Stretcher to lay the wreath in the ocean in honor of all those men and women in the service that had lost their lives during war times. The Kinsolving family was given the honor in memory of their father Gus Kinsolving who was a supporter of the American Legion. Gus’s daughter Isabel Kinsolving Farrar did the honors. Aaron Lusker was Captain and Dirk Harris was the navigator on this special Sea Stretcher run. Photo Credit: Thayer Talbott

A special thank you goes to State Trooper Kevin Drew and his wife Maureen who is a member of The Eastern Long Island Police and Drum Corp. She was instrumental in getting all the bagpipers and drummers here to march and he was responsible for transporting them from New London to Fishers and back so they participate in our parade and could connect with the Long Island ferry Sunday. Gratitude also goes to Sea Stretcher Captain Dave Denison and the Hay Harbor Club for the use of the golf cart in the parade. And, to FIFD Fire Chief Bruce Hubert, Tim Paterson, Adjutant Commander of the A. R. Grebe Post 1045 Fishers Island, and John Doucette, Penn Sanger, and Alex Kardziyak for having the fire trucks in the parade.

Legion Manager Debbie Doucette probably won’t want to admit it, but she was the one who started the Memorial Day picnic event at the American Legion – this was the 20th year! Many volunteers including Fishers Island School students Fred and Constance Toldo, Emma and Molly Cypherd, David Shillo, and AJ Eastman assisted her. Also helping were Dee Ross, Jane Ahrens and grillers Luis Horn, Seth Allan, JR Edwards, and Jimmy Ski.

Thanks also goes to Bob Brooks who was a great help with this story and who wrote, “I am not a veteran but have been given the honor to represent the American Legion Post 1045 as a Son of the American Legion for 10 out of the last 12 years. My grandfather Robert R. Brooks and my uncle Howard Best are both on the original charter of the Post 1045 along with my grandmother Delsie Brooks and my Great Grandmother Lottie Eldridge who are on the Ladies Auxiliary charter of Post 1045.”

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