East Hampton, Sag Harbor Honor War Dead

John Behan, a Vietnam veteran, was the keynote speaker at East Hampton's Memorial Day parade. David E. Rattray

A crowd that numbered in the hundreds watched on the Hook Mill Green in East Hampton Village as the leaders of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars made remarks following a Memorial Day parade on Main Street.

"It is a special honor to gather to recognize those who served and stepped up and those that continue to step up and serve," East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.

Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. made note of the many in the United States military who came home injured or with post-traumatic stress disorder. He described the parade of veterans, scout groups, fire departments, and the East Hampton High School band as a great tribute to the armed forces. "America is the greatest nation and hopefully it will remain the strongest democracy in the world," he said.

John Behan, a former New York State assemblyman from Montauk who lost his legs in May 1969 in Vietnam, was the main speaker. "We come from a country and a hometown where the word freedom means something," he told the crowd.

In an emotional moment, Mr. Behan, himself a former marine, recalled the death of a young marine from Sag Harbor who was killed in Iraq in 2008. "I would be remiss today if I did not say the name -- and there are over a million names I could say -- of Jordan Haerter."

He said it was a miracle that his family had kept the lance corporal's name alive both in his memory and for all the families that have lost sons and daughters in America's wars. Corporal Haerter was 19 when he was killed with another marine while defending a security post in the city of Ramadi.

In closing, Mr. Behan said, "America is the greatest nation in the world because of the sacrifice and lives that other Americans have given, from sea to shining sea."

Following a battlefield cross presentation, in which a rifle with a bayonet was stuck in the ground and a helmet placed on its stock, three volleys of rifle fire, taps, and a closing prayer, the memorial ended, though many people remained to greet one another and catch up with friends.

In Sag Harbor, a Memorial Day parade earlier Monday morning included stops and salutes at the village's Civil War monument, the Main Street firehouse, and the bridge to North Haven, named for Corporal Haerter, before continuing to Marine Park, where John E. Schroll, a retired lieutenant commander with the Navy, was the speaker.

At the firehouse, members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized Sag Harbor volunteer firefighters who lost their lives in service to their country, Corporal Haerter among them.

Behind an American Gold Star Mothers banner, his mother, Joanne Lyles, marched alongside Nicolasa Arevalo, whose son, Army Specialist Orlando Perez, was killed in Baghdad in 2008. As remarks were delivered at Marine Park, their presence was a tangible and emotional reminder of the importance of the day.
With Reporting by Carissa Katz

Joanne Lyles, left, and Nicolasa Arevalo, two Gold Star mothers, sat in the front row as remarks were delivered following Sag Harbor's Memorial Day parade.Carissa Katz
Veterans listened as John Behan spoke at the memorial green in East Hampton.David E. Rattray
Three volleys of rifle fire in East HamptonDavid E. Rattray
East Hampton's parade made its way down Main Street.Durell Godfrey
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, center, and Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., right, spoke at the parade.David E. Rattray
Marchers in Sag Harbor stopped at the Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter Memorial Bridge.Carissa Katz
The parade route in Sag Harbor also included a stop at the Civil War monument on the corner of Main and Madison Streets.Carissa Katz
At the Civil War monument in Sag HarborCarissa Katz
The tone at the parades was thoughtful, but also celebratory. Wearing their patriotic colors were, at left, Renae Peterkin in Sag Harbor, and, right, Dave Weaver and Keeley Anderson.Carissa Katz and Durell Godfrey