Joy Josephson admitted Sunday she was a bit nervous.
As the soon-to-be chief master sgt. in the U.S. Air Force, the Gerry native has traveled the world as part of the American Forces Network. Josephson has taken photographs from within aircrafts tens of thousands of feet into the air and reported from Japan in the wake of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
But as guest speaker for the Gerry Memorial Day Parade, Josephson conceded she had a few butterflies in her stomach.
Ashlynn Rose Smith watches as participants in the Gerry Memorial Day Parade walk by Sunday.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
"I am a little nervous to get up there and talk, actually" she said at the Gerry Cemetery, "but I am humbled to be here and speak, especially at this time of the year. It's an honor."
The 1992 Cassadaga Valley High School graduate spoke in front of more than 100 area residents at the cemetery. She recalled in her speech waiting for an airplane ride after an exhausting day, only to be left waiting on the tarmac without explanation. Ahead, a procession became visible for a fallen soldier who was about to be taken home.
It was an emotional moment, Josephson said, of seeing the casket draped in an American flag being loaded into the plane.
"I couldn't sleep a wink on that ride," she said.
Earlier Sunday, residents lined much of Route 60 in Gerry for the annual parade, led by members of the Cassadaga American Legion. Also taking part in the parade were the Blue Star Mothers, Henry Mosher Unit 638 Junior Auxiliary and numerous fire departments, among other groups.
"It's just great to be out here and be a part of this," said Louann Smith of Sinclairville. "For me it's really about the heritage and the community coming together."