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New York National Guard Headquarters Staff Marks Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Eric Durr,
  • New York National Guard

LATHAM, N.Y. - The New York National Guard’s headquarters staff marked Memorial Day with a short ceremony May 23.

Brig. Gen. Isabel Smith, the director of joint staff, spoke briefly about the importance of Memorial Day.

“We pay honor and tribute to properly thank these heroes, who have done so much to keep this country, our prosperity, and our freedoms intact,” Smith said. “For those who never left the battlefields, we must hold them up in our hometowns and honor their memories.”

Command Sgt. Major Curtis Moss, assigned to the operations and training directorate, read the names of 15 New York Army and Air National Guard and New York Naval Militia members who died in the past year.

Two Soldiers, Chief Warrant Officers 2 Casey Frankoski and John Michael Grassia II, were killed March 8, 2024, when the UH-72 Lakota helicopter they were flying to support the Border Patrol crashed in Texas.

To conclude the ceremony, Moss and Smith placed a wreath commemorating those killed in battle, while Cpl. Christian Luce, a 42nd Infantry Division Band member, played taps.

Memorial Day got its start in New York April 5, 1866, when the citizens of Waterlook decorated the village with flags at half-staff and evergreen branches on the anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to commemorate the local war dead.

The village did it again in 1867. By 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic, the equivalent of the American Legion for Union War veterans, was urging a National Day of Remembrance on May 30. The village and other New York communities shifted their date to May 30.

In the South, a group of formerly enslaved people held a Memorial Day event in May 1865, just a month after the war’s end, marking the graves of Union Soldiers who died in battles around Charleston, South Carolina.

Other events were held across the South in communities to mark the graves of Confederate war dead.

Since then, the day's meaning has expanded to commemorate all those who have given their lives in defense of the United States.