My family has been going to the Memorial Day parade before I could even pronounce the word Memorial or register that there even was a parade. I was three weeks old when our tradition began. After some growing up and a few trial and errors, we finally designated our spot at one of the many benches along the route, and soon our friends and family would too.
This year instead of arriving early at the green bench to claim our spot for us and our friends, the four of us and our dog (it was her first time attending) gathered on our white couch in the basement to watch the Memorial Day Virtual Ceremony just minutes before it began.
The 24-minute video began with Captain Peter Gaudet giving some thanks to those who put this together, those who have fought or currently fight for our country, as well as some reminders to hold on tight to your loved ones and that we as a nation are stronger than we think in relation to the current pandemic.
“We will survive. We will thrive. We are Americans. We are not American-nots.”
My family enjoyed that line. Very clever.
The usual happenings of the parade and ceremony occurred in this shortened video. The National Anthem was sung by Jordana Lichtenthal, the names of New Castle residents whose lives were lost throughout the wars and operations were read off and the story of a WWII veteran who can usually be seen waving and riding down South Greeley Avenue in an army vehicle was told.
Normally, our town “celebrities”, The Clintons, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mr. Lange (Yes. Mr. Lange is a celebrity in my book), can be seen walking in the parade, waving and smiling.
This year, the Clintons gave short messages. President Clinton started off the remarks while sporting an oh so patriotic navy blue sweater with an American flag in the middle. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to reassure everyone that, despite the circumstances, they’re still here for us.
“And although we will miss marching with everyone to pay tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day, our hearts will be with all of you,” Hillary Clinton stated.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, State Senator Peter Harckham and New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald spoke, as well as prominent Chappaqua Central School District figures, including the President of the Board of Education Jane Shepardson, annd CCSD School Superintendent Christine Ackerman. The New Castle Police Department offered a few words too. Each of the members of the New Castle Town Board spoke, beginning with Town Supervisor Ivy Pool and followed by Deputy Supervisor Jeremy Saland, and Lisa Katz, Jason Lichtenthal and Laura Levin, and County Legislator Vedat Gashi.
What was my favorite cameo? The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts representatives. It immediately brought me back to my younger years when I was a part of the laying of the wreath ceremony before the parade started and when I was chosen, along with my sister, Alexis, to carry one of the flags (see above!). I also would like to give a shout out to my sister who I made carry the flag for the majority of the time despite her having to wear an Aircast for a fractured ankle. What a champ!
Now, even though I only did Girl Scouts for four or five years, I still appreciate everything that being part of a troop stands for. Was I in it for the cookies? Maybe. But did I learn a lot and make great memories that I still remember like it was yesterday? Yes. In fact, to this day, I can still recite the Honor Code.
Being able to march through town, holding up your banner and having everyone wave and cheer for you was such a cool thing to experience as a young kid. That goes for those who march with their AYSO teams and other organizations as well. I think that is the one thing that is the biggest loss from not having the parade.
When I was 10, I was smart enough to realize that snacks would make the parade that much better. So, a system was made where I would go to Dunkin Donuts and get Coolattas and a friend would go to Rite Aid and get candy. Now that those two places are gone, I’ve been making it through the parade snackless–hard, I know. But I’m a grown up now and can do it.
As I got older, I started to recognize the same faces every year sitting in their lawn chairs in front of different stores. It was fun for me to also spot my friends who were marching with their instruments. It was like Where’s Waldo, only harder because they were walking.
Some of my friends from high school would go and maybe we would see them at one point, but to me this has always been a family thing. Rain or shine, we are there. Standing or sitting at our spot.
The parade after my freshman year of college was more meaningful because I was now seeing people that I hadn’t seen in a long time and after many changes throughout the year it was comforting to come back home and have something traditional and constant to look forward to going to. I felt safe to be back in my bubble.
Talk about a bubble–what could be more safe than your own home? Although it was an unorthodox way for us to spend the morning, there was something warm and comforting to be felt while listening to Taps being played in my basement surrounded by just my family.
Captain Gaudet had said, “With crisis always comes much confusion, but also in crisis, there are moments of great clarity…”
For me, the clarity in this situation is how lucky I am to have had something that has created so many memories over the years, and that although this year was like no other, it will just make the next parade that much more special.
Every year on the last Monday of May, the streets of downtown Chappaqua are filled with children and adults all ready to honor those who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. The Memorial Day parade has always represented one of the hallmarks of our town, bringing together the community in a way unlike any other. However, the town of New Castle did not let the current situation dissuade from the spirit of this holiday. Working with the Memorial Day Committee and the New Castle Community Media Center, a virtual Memorial Day parade ceremony was born which compiled images of the parade from past years, too.
U.S. Army Captain Peter Gaudet opened the ceremony and set the tone for the 2020 virtual New Castle Memorial Day Parade. He acknowledged that “while we’d all prefer to be together, we will do what Americans always do so very well: we will adapt and overcome… and go virtual.” He thanked the New Castle town board and town supervisor Ivy Pool, elected officials along with Captain James McCauley (the decades long Marshall of the Parade), David Egerton, Jill Shapiro and Carrie Krams, and all those “whose hard work and dedication make Memorial Day so special in our great town, in our great country, every year.”
Memorial Day Clarity
“With crisis always comes much confusion, but also in crisis, there are moments of great clarity,” he continued, “clarity in principles, clarity in purpose, clarity in commitment and service, clarity in resilience… Memorial Day provides clarity as to the true purpose of this holiday, for all of us to remember and reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for and giving their lives for our country and our freedom.”
Captain Gaudet offered words of encouragement regarding the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, calling it “just another enemy that our country will defeat.. Let’s take counsel of our courage; let’s not take counsel of our fears. We will survive. We will thrive. We are Americans. We are not American-nots.”
“As we virtually gather to remember those who have died in service of the United States of America, may we be mindful that the sacrifices made by these brave women and men continue to this day,” Reverend Dr. Martha Jacobs of the First Congregational Church passionately explained. “They remind us that America is a great country, but we cannot take that for granted. We need to be willing to place personal needs aside in order to promote a greater good for all, just as those who have fought and died for our country showed us through their ultimate sacrifice.”
Following Reverend Dr. Martha Jacobs’ prayer was Jordana Lichtenthal singing the national anthem with videos of past Memorial Day parades playing. This year, World War II veteran Ronald A. Freeman was honored. Training as a radio officer, Mr. Freeman served in France and Italy, eventually earning the American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal.
The names of fallen U.S. veterans over the years were read by Captain James McCauley. Frank Huber of the Chappaqua Orchestra then played “Taps” to honor the military service men and women who have fought for our country.
President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton each praised the soldiers and community during this tumultuous time. “This Memorial Day is unlike any other, but in many ways it makes it even more important for us to thank those who have served our country in the past,” stated President Clinton, who have put their lives at risk to ensure our freedom…” Secretary Clinton continued, exclaiming, “Although we will miss marching with everyone to pay tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day, our hearts will be with all of you and we also want to extend our gratitude to everyone serving now throughout the world.”
Senator Charles Schumer also made an appearance, praising the active soldiers and veterans of our country. “It has been a difficult few months for all of us, but today I draw strength from all of you – all of you who have sacrificed for our nation so we can enjoy the blessings of liberty. I promise that as we fight back against this disease that you are safe and you are cared for, just as you have cared for us.”
“This Memorial Day looks a little different. We aren’t able to stand together for our ceremony in New Castle, but it remains our solemn duty to honor our fallen heroes and mark this moment despite the uncertainty of this time,” asserted Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey. “Today we pay tribute to those who have demonstrated the highest form of selflessness remembering those who have served our country around the world and honoring the families and communities they left behind.”
New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald also celebrated those who have sacrificed themselves in service to our country. “This Memorial Day is unlike any in history, but if there is something we need to hold onto is those things that make life truly precious and those who have given themselves so that the rest of us might be free are deserving of tremendous gratitude. Please reach out to their families and convey your appreciation.”
New York State Senator Peter Harckham also joined in on those commending the servicemen and women of our country. “This Memorial Day, it is important that all Americans pause to honor the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms. Normally this takes the form of parades and large civic gatherings to honor their sacrifice. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that’s not possible. I’m urging all New Yorkers to take a moment to honor our fallen heroes in their own way. It’s so important that we not take our freedoms for granted and we remember all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.”
“The COVID-19 virus has cost us many familiar events over the course of the spring – opening day for the Little League, celebration of Easter, Passover, Ramadan, Cinco De Mayo and in certain ways, Mother’s Day, but New Castle never forgets its veterans,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer declared. “Memorial Day is not one day a year – it is everyday in our hearts and those men and women who went off to war and those who didn’t come back will never be forgotten for the great sacrifice they made. We thank the New Castle community, Chappaqua, Millwood and all of us for making sure this Memorial Day, although different, is still special.”
Westchester County Legislator, Vedat Gashi added:“Right now we are celebrating our holidays differently, but the meaning behind our celebrations are more important than ever. Memorial Day remains a time to remember the heroes whose sacrifices made these moments possible. Every single one of us owes our fallen heroes a profound debt of gratitude.
The New Castle Town Board, comprised of Town Supervisor Ivy Pool, Deputy Town Supervisor Jeremy Saland, Town Board Member Lauren Levin, Town Council Member Jason Lichtenthal and Town Council Member Lisa Katz, also delivered heartening messages for the veterans of our country and to praise the enduring spirit of the community.
Jane Shepardson, President of the Board of Education, and Christine Ackerman, Superintendent of the Chappaqua Central School District each applauded the community and the soldiers of our country for their sacrifice and service. The Seven Bridges Middle School Morning Crew then expressed their sincere gratitude to the past and active veterans, as well as to the town of Chappaqua. Troop 1 of the Boy Scouts of America saluted those who gave their life and fought for our freedoms.
The ceremony concluded in song with narration by Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester who expressed gratitude to those fallen, to health care heroes, to first responders and more–and also with a blessing to the entire community.
The full 2020 New Castle Memorial Day Ceremony may be viewed on:
Voluntary subscriptions are most welcome, if you've moved outside the area, or a subscription is a great present idea for an elderly parent, for a neighbor who is moving or for your graduating high school student or any college student who may enjoy keeping up with hometown stories.