KENNEDY - The weather cooperated, and a large crowd gathered to witness the annual Memorial Day parade through downtown Kennedy. Many people proceeded to Riverside Cemetery for the memorial service afterwards.
Robert Swanson led off the parade as wreath bearer, an honor he has felt privileged to hold for many years. Following him was the Firing Squad/Color Guard from Randolph American Legion Post 181. Master of Ceremonies George Fuller, Jr. and Keynote Speaker Janet Vanstrom were next in order. Kennedy Fire Department Queen Bobbi-Sue Cole rode in a gold Corvette convertible owned and driven by Mark Cobb, and Chautauqua County Dairy Princess Emily Minor and her court proceeded through on their float. Area youth carried different historical flags that were donated to the Town of Poland by Vernon Crandall.
George and Martha Washington, portrayed by Rick and Joan Swanson, walked the parade route, followed by the Navy Seabee flag bearers and banner. Under the direction of Jeffrey Camp, the Falconer Central School Marching Band provided patriotic music as they marched along the route. Boys State representative Max Lindquist and Girls State representative Brittney Pearson followed the band.
Wreath bearer Robert Swanson, folowed by Randolph American Legion Post 181 Color Guard and firing Squad, Master of Ceremonies George Fuller Jr. behind them.
P-J photos by?Rose Mary Carver
Automobiles carried dignitaries through the parade. Clergy for this year were Pastor Howard Garver of Levant Wesleyan Church and Pastor Jennifer Delahoy of Kennedy United Methodist Church. Vocalists for the service were Martin Swalboski and Burke Lindquist. The readers were Ruth Rowley and Donna Dort. County Clerk Sandy Sopak participated in the parade, along with District #7 County Legislator Robert Stewart. Town officials in the parade were Supervisor Jim Cooper, Councilwoman Kathleen Stanton, Councilman Norman Gustafson, Highway Superintendent Larry Mee, Justice Judy Shields, Court Clerk Nancy Shelters, and Assessor Dennis Stornes.
Floats and banners came after the dignitaries' cars. Uncle Sam, portrayed by Frank Rock, led the way. Kennedy Pride members, many wearing their new shirts, were next. The Ross Grange had a very patriotic display, as always. Story time children from the Kennedy Free Library rode on a float in the parade with Head Librarian Linda Bish. LaRoys Goats paraded some of their goats on leads, as well as a display float following.
The honored guests for this year's parade once again rode in the lovely Cracker Jack Farms carriage. This year's honored guests were Robert and Donna Cross and Ronnie and Bonnie Mead. The honored guests are people chosen for their service to their community.
Local baseball and softball leagues were represented by teams sponsored by the Falcons Nest under Robert cross and Corey Newman, and the softball team coached by Adrienne Swanson. The Town of Poland Recreation Committee helped area youth decorate their bicycles and scooters for the prade, to the delight of everyone. Antique tractors came next, followed by many classic and antique cars. Responding to "mutual aid" for a parade as well as an emergency, equipment from the falconer, Ellington, Frewsburg, Gerry and Randolph fire departments joined the Kennedy Fire Department in the parade. Instead of just passing out candy, members of the Kennedy Fire department passed out pencils, coloring books about fire safety, and junior fire hats to many happy children.
The Southern Tier Riders Motorcycle Club was well represented with members riding a wide variety of bikes in the parade. Several have said that it is a highlight of the year.
Horses and ponies, with their riders, brought up the rear of the parade. The animals and riders wee all decked out with patriotic hats, garlands, and other decorations. As always, thanks to the New York State Police and the Chautauqua Sheriff's Department for blocking the parade route to through traffic during the parade.
Master of ceremonies George Fuller Jr. waited for people to arrive from the parade route before starting the memorial service at Riverside Cemetery. After introducing County and Town officials and honored guests, the National
Anthem was played by the Falconer Central School Band. Boys and Girls State representatives Max Lindquist and Brittney Pearson then led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Levant Wesleyan Pastor Howard Garver gave the invocation. Logan's Orders were read by Brittney Pearson. A patriotic tribute, "My Country Tis of Thee", was then played by the Falconer band. George and Martha Washington placed wildflowers at the memorial marker in Riverside cemetery. Max Lindquist then read the Gettysburg Address.
Keynote speaker Janet Vanstrom's Memorial Day address dealt not only with patriotism in general, but about the Navajo Code Talkers in particular. Ms. Vanstrom told about going to the dedication of the World War II memorial in 2004, a journey her late father was unable to make. It was there she met one of the Navajo Code Talkers on the Washington Mall and talked with him for 30 minutes. This ignited her thirst for more knowledge, and started her quest to learn more. For instance, did you know tha the code talkers began in World War I with the Choctaw Code Talkers? Captain Lawrence, who commanded American companies, walked through a company area and heard Louis Solomon and another Choctaw speaking their native language. All the Choctaw men in the battalion were located, and the use of their native language to send messages prevented the Germans from collecting messages the allies were sending.
During World War II, the Code Talkers were much more deliberately formed. The men were exclusively Navajo, descendents of people driven from their ancestral lands when the West was settled by white pioneers. Yet these men volunteered in great numbers for both World War I and World War II. Although the service was a whole different world from what they were used to on the reservation, they did what was asked of them. The initial group of 29 men was selected for the Code Talkers, and was given rigorous physical and communications methods training. Then they were given the task of developing a code, using their native language, to prevent the enemy from knowing our plans. The code was so complex that even other Navajo could not decipher it.
Ms. Vanstrom went on to say that Guadalcanal was their first assignment. "It was not an easy time for them as many of the "white" men thought the Code Talkers were Japanese. Then when they began to speak on the radios, they were mistaken for Japanese and their transmissions were jammed.
"The signal officer made them compete with the code machines on Day 2. A coded message generally took 4 hours to be sent out, deciphered, a reply written and encoded, then sent back. When the code talkers were asked how long it would take them, they said two minutes. Hunt's reply was "expletive!" It took two minutes and 30 seconds and that was the end of the test. The Code Talkers sent the messages after that on Guadalcanal."
Ms. Vanstrom told how these men went back to their homes, but never bragged, for that was not their way. They just did what needed to be done. But they dealt with the same nightmares and stress as others who served did. And they were told not to talk about what they had done until "Uncle Sam says that it is okay to do so." It was not until the late 1960s that they started to get any recognition.
Ms. Vanstrom stated that only about 50 of the original 400 Code Talkers remain with us. They fear that their legacies will die with them. "But I say to you that as long as people like you gather to remember all of our veterans, these unique men will not be forgotten. Nor will the veterans from all of our conflict from the revolutionary War to the war in Iraq be forgotten." She closed by inviting all who have served to stand and be recognized.
Following the speaker, Martin Swalboski and Burke Lindquist performed the Navy Hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save". Ruth Rowley then read the roll call of all the wars our nation has been involved with, followed by Donna Dort reading the names of all the veterans in the town deceased since last year.
Robert Swanson placed the wreath on the Veteran's Memorial in Riverside Cemetery. Mr. Fuller then again acknowledged those who had served, his voice showing his heartfelt emotion as he remembered the sacrifices of so many. Pastor Jennifer Delahoy of Kennedy United Methodist Church gave the benediction. The Randolph American Legion Post #181 gave the salute to the dead, followed by "Taps" played by Falconer High School trumpet player Brandon Caruso. Robert Swanson raised the flag and those assembled were reminded that a flag retirement ceremony would be held on June 16 in Hallquist Park
Those assembled agreed that it is a privilege to honor those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms today. It is also an obligation to pass their deeds on, to be remembered by those who will come after us.