Stratton service poignant

STRATTON – Light rain fell, only adding to the somber remembrance of veterans who have died in all wars during Memorial Day services Monday at Stratton Veterans Memorial Park.

The event also was marked by the addition of another stone in the park with 91 additional names engraved of all veterans in all wars, bringing the number of engraved stones to six containing names of more than 500 local veterans who have served in all wars.

The service began with a welcome from Michael Wilson, village police chief, after which resident James Woods led the singing of the national anthem. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by the Boy Scouts Troop 47, and then Wilson introduced the Rev. Raul Diaz, pastor of the Cornerstone Church.

Diaz, whose father came to America in 1962 to flee the Cuban regime, also served in the Marines. Diaz said Memorial Day is a day to remember fallen comrades.

Diaz began by thanking all who came to “this solemn occasion honoring fallen soldiers and wounded warriors.” He said the day is reserved for honoring “those warriors that protect our American way of life.”

He thanked veterans and their families for their support, quoting from President Abraham Lincoln on the anguish families must feel when one of their own is killed in battle.

“God has stood by our side through the good and the bad,” said Diaz adding God’s vehicle for doing so was the American soldier. “These are America’s finest. These are America’s heroes.”

Diaz said the soldier has stood by to his or her honor regardless of the sacrifices needed, which included everything from weaving their way through minefields to being away from families for years at a time.

“They have done this time and time again,” he said. “And we as a nation must be eternally grateful. We (will be) remembering and honoring the lives of these great patriots.”

“The soldier doesn’t just protect America but also its allies for the safety and security of the free world,” continued Diaz.

“It causes me to consider the (greatness) of America,” he said. “They bring freedom and pride into our civilization.”

Diaz said when his father arrived in America he wanted to serve in the military, but couldn’t. Diaz said one of his father’s proudest moments was when he had the opportunity to watch his son enlist in the Marines.

“He was extremely grateful to come to this country,” he said. “We must be grateful for our privileges, but not place them above our principles. Freedom isn’t free, and there is a price to be paid. Let us truly remember the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families.”

The ceremony continued with Woods singing “God Bless America,” after which C. David Rhodes, vice commander of the Toronto American Legion Post 86, told the gathering 53 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year. He added 22 veterans a day are committing suicide.

“Why is that?” he asked. “Did they die overseas and come home to rest? I don’t know.”

Diaz led the benediction, and the service closed with a 21-gun salute performed by the Toronto American Legion Honor Guard and the playing of taps.