By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Monique K. Hilley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Service members participated in a Memorial Day observance at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park May 28 as part of Fleet Week New York 2012 and the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.
The observance included performances from the U.S. Coast Guard Band and New York Scottish Pipes and Drums, a wreath-laying ceremony and remarks from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Rear Adm. Daniel A. Neptun, commander, Coast Guard District 1; Capt. Justine Cabulong, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; and Cmdr. Laura Bender, chaplain of Wounded Warrior Regiment.
"Today we pause to reflect on the service and sacrifice of all our great men and women, and honor the memory of those who have passed and those who have given their lives to defend our nation," said Bloomberg. "This holiday I think should remind us of the incredible debt that we owe every American who serves in our armed forces because they have stood where others could not, they have done what others did not, and they have earned not just our respect, but our gratitude and our support as well."
Bloomberg placed the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial wreath at the portal of the monument on behalf of the city of New York. Following the mayor's remarks, Retired Brig. Gen. Thomas Principe, New York Army National Guard announced each of the veterans, heritage and memorial organizations that also placed wreaths at the monument to pay tribute to the sacrifice of those who have served in the armed forces and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom of Americans.
"Today's ceremony and many others across this great land today remind us that their sacrifice was not in vain," said Neptun. "The legacy lives on in those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen standing the watch today for us around the world. Each of them dying tonight could possibly be that one. Regardless of the weather conditions or threat levels, we stand ready to immediately respond when action must be taken."
In eight months of the Revolutionary War, 55 Americans died every month. During the Korean War, there were over 900 Americans dying every month. During 90 months of the Vietnam War, there were over 500 Americans dying every month. During four years of World War II, that number grew to more than 6,600 Americans dying in combat every month.
"Since 1775, over 848,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat," said Neptun. "They were husbands, they were wives, they were mothers, they were fathers, sons and daughters (who) died in combat for their nation, for their service and for their comrades and really for us. Most of them were young, just beginning their lifelong journey into adulthood."
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument stands above the Hudson River in Riverside Park. Although more than 100,000 New Yorkers served in the Civil War, there are no hallowed battlegrounds in Manhattan to speak of their deeds and sacrifice. The Soldiers' and Sailors' monument was created in homage to those who served and gave their lives to protect the Union. The monument is a mile downriver from the General Grant National Memorial and these "sister memorials" have held joint observances for over a century.
The Memorial Day observance at the site is now the city's largest and most solemn. It honors veterans of all wars and continues to pay special homage to New Yorkers who fell in the Civil War.
Held nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city's celebration of the sea services. Fleet Week New York provides an opportunity for its citizens and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. More than 6,000 service men and women from the U.S. and coalition nations will arrive aboard the ships.
This year, Fleet Week New York is one of the signature events around the country commemorating OpSail 2012, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner.
The commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is a salute to all Sailors and Marines who fought gallantly in that conflict, who served in all our nation's conflicts since then, and who are defending freedom around the world today.