A ceremony honoring veterans took place Thursday at the Western New York National Veterans Cemetery in Pembroke.
Bill Joyce, head of the Genesee County Veterans Council and president of the Western New York National Cemetery Memorial Council, arranged the ceremony, which took place on the 247th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Cemetery director James Metcalf said the observance was scheduled on Thursday to allow veterans to spend Veterans Day (Friday) with their families.
Metcalf opened the ceremony with a welcome to all veterans in attendance and a shout-out to Tun Tavern, the brewery in Philadelphia, which is regarded as the site where the U.S. Marine Corps held its first recruitment drive during the American Revolution.
Metcalf and Brenda Serena, a U.S. Army veteran and Erie County Officer in Charge, placed a wreath under the giant American flag.
“Today, we gather to honor our veterans' memorial service and sacrifice by placing this wreath in this National Shrine,” Metcalf said. “This day is your day and it’s an honor to spend it with you.”
He urged those in attendance to remember and recognize the service, sacrifices and selflessness of the nation’s veterans.
“These veterans raised their hands and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Metcalf said. “By fighting our nation’s wars and defending us all during periods of peace between wars, veterans have protected our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy – the freedom to speak without fear, to vote as we see fit and to gather as we do today.
“We owe them all a debt of gratitude for the burdens they have borne,” he said. “And so, today, we recommit ourselves to upholding that promise and all the principles of democracy for which veterans have fought and bled to defend. That is our most sacred responsibility as Americans – today, on Veterans’ Day and every day.”
After Metcalf and Serena placed a giant wreath under the flag, an Honor Guard of members of the Medina American Legion and VFW presented a three-gun salute.
Metcalf said in the future, Veterans’ Day observances will be more formal when the construction of the cemetery is complete.
Joyce explained the WNY National Cemetery Memorial Council was formed to help the cemetery with projects, such as purchasing golf carts to get veterans to funeral services.