Honoring The Fallen

Members of the Jamestown community took time out of their schedules on Saturday morning to honor the memory and service of local military veterans during the second annual Gold Star Memorial service hosted by the Lake Erie New York Chapter 4 Blue Star Mothers.

Taking place in the recently relocated Jamestown Veterans Memorial Park on West Third Street at Harding and Logan Avenues, the memorial was led by Susan Rowley, Blue Star Mothers Chapter president, and included speeches from state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean; Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown; Mayor Sam Teresi; and Ronald Cotten, Jamestown Veterans Memorial Park commissioner.

Last May, the Blue Star Mothers hosted Jamestown’s first Gold Star Memorial to honor Chautauqua County native veterans who died during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. A cherry tree for each fallen service member was planted in the park.

This year, the focus of the memorial was extended to include a ceremony honoring the lives of native service members who died prior to 2011. Gold Star Banners were given to the families of Pvt. Kenneth John Nelson, who died in 1985 while returning from a peace mission with the U.S. Army, and Spc. Thomas G. Stone, who died in 1991 while serving with the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm.

In the speeches given during the service there existed among them a common theme: the importance of keeping in mind, even amidst the busyness of everyday life, the sacrifices of United States service members and their families.

Goodell described the Gold Star Memorial and other services like it as “one of the most important ceremonies as well as one of the most difficult.”

Young asked all veterans in attendance to stand up, urging the crowd to remember them and all others who served as they go about their plans during the Memorial Day weekend.

Teresi expressed his desire for the annual Gold Star Memorial to become the “unofficial start of the Memorial Day weekend” in Jamestown and to serve as a reminder of the importance of attending other community Memorial Day events as tribute to who have served their country.

The mayor also expressed the connection between the Gold Star Memorial and the Jamestown Veterans Memorial Park, stating that the event represents the “first stage in an investment in this location,” with plans to establish the memorial service as an annual event for both Jamestown and the park. Both the mayor and Cotten spoke about plans for the further development of the park, with construction slated to take place within the coming year that will complete the park’s transformation into a memorial site for veterans of the armed forces.

Following the speakers, balloons were released in honor of the 11 total Gold Star heroes of Chautauqua County, with each balloon representing an area native who has sacrificed his life in the line of duty. The ceremony was concluded with a commanding of the firing squad by the Vietnam Veterans Color Guard, a benediction by the Rev. Robert Lewis and a dedication by the Blue Star Mothers of a wreath, given to the park in memory of the United States veterans.