by Rachel Hunter
Michael Webster of Gouverneur encouraged all to remember the day’s true meaning in his speech at the 2017 Gouverneur Memorial Day service, held Monday, May 29 at the Riverside Cemetery.
“Memorial Day is the day set aside for remembering and honoring military personnel, men and women, who died in the service of their country,” the guest speaker said.
“They were defending our freedom and our way of life. Today we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They left their homes, never to return. Those who did and do come home we honor and pay tribute to them on Veterans Day. In reality, we should thank them every day.
“So I ask: Why did you come here?” Did you come to listen to someone give a speech? To hear a lone bagpiper? To hear the band? To hear the guns? To remember and show respect? Maybe some of you came because you had to, possibly wishing you were somewhere else. Maybe you lost a family member, maybe a close friend. It may be only a fleeting moment, a passing though. We do our best. But is it really? So many distractions.
“Putting it bluntly, the men and women that we are to remember and honor here today gave their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we have and hold dear.
“Freedom was not and is not free.
“To my question. Why did you come here? You know your answer.
“I came here to show respect to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. My uncle, Silas Wainwright, died at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, December 7, 1941. The Veterans of Foreign Wars here in Gouverneur named their Post in his honor. In my family we were taught no to forget. My children and grandchildren are also made aware.
“Did I enjoy the band, the lone bagpiper and the rifle salute? Of course I did. It all helps me to remember.
“Because many have lost the true meaning of this day, it is our responsibility to pass along to each new generation the importance of being here. It is our duty to never let America forget the sacrifice of so many.
“I thank you all for being here with me today and my hope is that you will continue to honor and remember.”
Michael Webster was born in Gouverneur, and raised on a dairy farm in Hammond. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Navy, retiring in 1983, almost 24 later, as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. His eligibility for the Veterans of Foreign Wars came from tours of duty in Vietnam and a mission over Korea with Patrol Squadron Four.
He joined the Silas Wainwright VFW Post #6338, in Gouverneur, in 1973 and is a Life Member.
After retiring from the Navy he completed his education to become a school teacher, earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History at SUNY Potsdam and his Master of Arts Degree in Education at St. Lawrence University.
He retired from teaching in 2007. He also had his own carpentry business for more than 17 years.
With the VFW he was the Post Commander, twice, totaling eight years, St. Lawrence Counties Council Commander and District Four Commander. He has held chairmanships at the Post, District and State levels and is presently a National Committee Member for Veterans and Military Support Programs.
He is also a member of the, American Legion Post 65 in Gouverneur New York, Military Order of the Cootie of the United States, Navy Fleet Reserve Association Post 86 in Millington Tennessee, Knights of Columbus in Gouverneur and Zoning Board of Appeals for Edwards New York.
Michael and his wife Marlene (Gosier), (who he went to school with from the first grade on), have been married for 56 years, have four children, Tracie, Cary, Robert and Jeremy and seven grandchildren. Three years ago they officially became snowbirds.
The 2017 Memorial Day Parade in Gouverneur started at 10a.m. Lineup was in front of the former’s Greg’s Restaurant (Rock Island St.). The parade traveled west on Main St., and then South on Williams St., crossing the bridge to Riverside Cemetery. Residents didn’t let the rain dampen their spirits as they watched the parade under umbrellas on Main St.
The parade marshal was Richard Fisher.
The parade was led by Village of Gouverneur Police Chief Laurina Greenhill in a Gouverneur Police Dept. car, followed by St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells in the sheriff’s vehicle.
Honor guards from the James Maloy American Legion Post 65 and the Silas Wainwright Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6338 carried flags and weapons.
Gouverneur VFW Post 6338 Auxiliary marched along with Gold Star Mother Nancy Cappellino.
Local dignitaries included Village of Gouverneur Mayor Ron McDougall, Town of Gouverneur Supervisor Robert Ritchie, Deputy Supervisor Eldon Conklin, St. Lawrence County Legislator Henry Leaderr and former Village of Gouverneur Mayor Curran Wade.
Gouverneur Masonic Lodge No. 217 joined in the parade ahead of the Gouverneur High School Wildcat Marching Band, which performed under the direction of Victor Correa.
Girl Scout Troop 50271 followed, waving American flags as they waved and went down the parade route.
Fort Drum provided three military vehicles for the parade.
Gouverneur Volunteer Fire Department then concluded the parade with Engine 17 along with the Gouverneur Rescue Squad’s ambulance.
A United States Navy wreath was presented at the Williams Street/Route 58 bridge to salute the dead by Michael Webster and Michael Knowlton.
The Master of Ceremonies for the services at the cemetery was Jim Wright. The invocation was given by American Legion Auxiliary Chaplain Betty Tuttle. Mr. Wright led the Pledge of Allegiance. The band played the Star Spangled Banner.
Jeff Forsythe performed two selections on the bagpipes, including “Amazing Grace”.
Mr. Wright then acknowledged the following dignitaries: Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, St. Lawrence County Legislator Joel LaPierre (District 4), St. Lawrence County Legislator Henry Leader (District 5), St. Lawrence County Legislator Larry Denesha (District 6), SLC Sheriff Kevin Wells, Gouverneur Village Mayor Ronald McDougall, Gouverneur Police Chief Laurina Greenhill, Gouverneur Chamber of Commerce Director Donna Besaw, Town of Gouverneur Supervisor Bob Ritchie.
Mike Webster served as the escort during the presentation of ribbons. The presentation was as follows: WWI (John Gray), WWII (Cecil Steele), Korea (Al Melisko), Vietnam (Ronald Hartle), Panama (Michael Knowlton), Desert Storm (Randy Knowlton), Bosnia (Todd Murray), Somalia/Haiti (Richard Fisher), Afghanistan (Roland Roderick), Iraq (Mike Webster), POW/MIA (Gerald Barker), Women Veterans Memorial (Nicole Shippee), American Legion Post 65 (Gloria Weldon), American Legion Ladies Auxiliary (Gloria Youngs), VFW Post 6338 (Dominick Simione), VFW Auxiliary (Melissa Simione), Gold Star Mothers (Nancy Cappellino), Daughters of the American Revolution (Lynda Andrews), Sons of the American Legion (Steven Cline).
The Last Roll Call was read by Mr. Wright for deceased VFW and American Legion members John Halford, Lewis Zaluski, Kelzo Shrewsberry, Charles Stowell, Edgar Eelles, and Leroy Tharett.
The Salute of the Dead was the given by the VFW and American Legion Rifle Squad. Taps were played by Jenneca Cook and Echo by Andromeda Elliot.
The Gouverneur High School Band then performed “His Honor/Captain America” under the direction of Janelle Yeoman.
The benediction was given by VFW Auxiliary Chaplain Marlene Webster.
Special gratitude was then given to all who contributed any type of service for the annual Memorial Day remembrance. All were then invited to American Legion Post 65 for a free luncheon in the upstairs banquet room following the ceremony.
by Rachel Hunter