MASSENA - Massena Amvets Post 4 Commander Francis Bud Byington used his keynote address Sunday as an opportunity to thank all veterans for their service, but he also gave special credit to the Amvets rifle squad.
They do a magnificent job, he said during his speech, adding that since the squad was formed nearly 30 years ago they have performed at more than 700 funerals, including just over 40 so far this year.
Whenever I call them or someone calls them, they are there, he said.
Massena observed Veterans Day on Sunday with a march by dozens of veterans from the American Legion post to the Massena fire station for a service.
Members of the squad are all veterans themselves, Mr. Byington said, adding the Amvets formed their unit after members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) squad grew older and were unable to continue.
Mr. Byington, who is also a member of Massena VFW Post 1143, was a member of the VFWs squad and a founding member of the Amvets squad once they took over that service.
The day though, wasnt just about the rifle squad. Mr. Byington said its a day about all veterans.
They served this great nation in times of peace and war and have done do for many years, he said. These veterans are heroes. Whether they are decorated war heroes or peace time personnel, they volunteered to defend our nation and protect our freedoms.
And as America finds itself again involved in wars across the world, Mr. Byington said he hopes the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are welcomed home.
It is not about whether or not you support the issues, he said. The issue is we must support the young men and women who are sent to defend us. Lifes lessons have taught us too well that we as a nation should stand behind those who serve. Those veterans know the true meaning of freedom.
Following the service, Mr. Byington said he would like to see those veterans returning home consider joining the Amvets or one of Massenas other veterans clubs.
As you can see a lot of us are older, he said. We would like to get some younger guys.
The Amvets, he said, is open to any honorably discharged soldier and since many of todays soldiers have served overseas, he also said they would be eligible to join the VFW.
VFW Post 1143 Commander Verne K. Drew Jr. said he would love to welcome new members to the post.
You had to be in the war to get in the club, he said, adding that while he belongs to all the clubs the VFW holds a special place in his heart.
Just like the Marines, I served in the Marines and to me thats a special branch. It doesnt take anything away from the other branches, but the Marines are special.
Mr. Drew said on this Veterans Day he would like to encourage people to visit area veterans who are in nursing homes and unable to make it to events like the ceremony held Sunday morning in downtown Massena.
He also said he was disappointed with how few people from the community attended the service or even took a moment to watch the parade of veterans go by.
Its really sad how many people didnt pay their respect to the veterans, he said. People from the community dont come out, and I would have liked to see a lot more people coming out.
Mr. Drew thanked Mayor James F. Hidy and Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray for attending the service, but said outside of them there were few other non-veterans in attendance.
A lot of veterans and their families were the only ones who showed up, he said.
Mr. Byington agreed and said he was disappointed with the attendance, but noted the weather Saturday morning was somewhat suspect.
I would always love to see more people at the service, he said, adding this years numbers are about the same as they have been in the past.
One non-veteran in attendance was Thomas DeLosh of Raymondville, who carried an American flag at the rear of the parade.
I carry the flag to show respect, he said. I do it from the heart.
Mr. DeLosh said marching in area parades was something he started doing several years ago.
I always liked to watch parades when I was a kid, he said. But I never got a chance to be in a parade.
Since he began marching in parades, Mr. DeLosh said hes also carried the American flag in the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades in Norwood, as well as in several smaller parades in the area.
I do it for the ones who cant be here, he said. Maybe theyre at work or in the nursing home, but I know not everyone who wants to be here can be.
The parade included members of the Amvets, VFW, American Legion, Korean War Veterans Association Post 284, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Post 171 and Marine Corps League Detachment 685.