Large crowds for Memorial Day observances
Putnam County's Director of Veterans Affairs Karl Rohde looked around at the large audiences gathered at Memorial Day observances in Lake Carmel and Carmel Sunday and remembered when not too long along when a handful of people attended such services.
"It's great to see that patriotism has returned and people of all ages are remembering the sacrifices made by members of the military over the decades," he told crowds at the Terry Hill Road monument in Lake Carmel and at the Carmel Veterans Hall in the county seat.
Rohde received thunderous ovations when telling the gatherings: "There are five reasons why America is the greatest country on earth and the land of the free and home of the brave: Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force."
Congresswoman Nan Hayworth started her holiday weekend by speaking at the Lake Carmel ceremony.
Hayworth said the "blessings that all Americans have were purchased at the cost of precious lives. It is so important that we honor their sacrifice by living our lives in ways of being patriotic Americans."
Earlier story, from Saturday morning:
Watchfires burn to prevent vandalism
Fires burned brightly in steel drums at the Putnam Veterans Memorial Park throughout the holiday weekend to symbolize veterans' determination of never having their park desecrated again.
Seven years ago on the eve of Memorial Day, vandals under the cloak of darkness entered the park and spray painted the veteran's monument in one of Putnam's most despicable and disgraceful acts of vandalism ever recorded.
The veteran's community rallied that day and the paint was removed in time for holiday services.
Karl Rohde of Lake Carmel, former NYS VFW Commander who currently serves as Putnam's Veterans Affairs Director, thanked the dozens of people who "stopped at two and three o'clock in the morning to pay their respects. Veterans were joined by ordinary civilians who decided to stop by. Out of something horrific has come something good."
During the opening ceremony Friday evening, Rohde, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Sheriff Don Smith and Harry Sherblom of Brewster, chairman of the Putnam Joint Veterans Council, burned a judge's robe to symbolize the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows for the burning of the American flag. Rohde called the ruling "not free speech but a disgrace. If people have the right to burn our flag in protest, we too can have free speech and burn a judge's robe."
Hundreds of American flags were properly retired when veterans and scouts cut the flags into strips which were incinerated in a large barrel.
Rohde said in order to provide a fitting grave for the remains of the flags, the "Old Glory Project will provide a new memorial at the park."
The Eagle Scout project was conceived by Declan Cunningham of Boy Scout Troop 14.