Hailing Lasting Courage and Commitment on Memorial Day

East Hampton's Memorial Day parade took place in the rain Monday morning. Matthew Charron Photos

Those watching East Hampton's Memorial Day parade on Monday donned raingear and stood under umbrellas as veterans, scouts, firefighters, and public officials marched down Main Street before gathering on the memorial green at Hook Mill to pay tribute to fallen soldiers.

The rain may have put a damper on many people's Memorial Day plans, but it was a fitting backdrop for a day that Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said is "too often . . . not treated as a solemn occasion," but rather as "the beginning of the summer season in the Hamptons, a three-day weekend with barbecues, a day at the beach . . . or another excuse for sales at the shopping mall."

Mr. Thiele, the guest speaker at the brief ceremony following the parade, reminded people that "The correct greeting today is not 'Happy Memorial Day,' but if you see a veteran or member of the military, it's 'Thank you for your service,' or if you see a family who has lost a loved one it's 'Thank you for your sacrifice.' " He recalled the sacrifices of Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter of Sag Harbor, who died in Iraq in 2008, and Lt. Joe Theinert of Shelter Island, who died in Afghanistan in 2010.

He also recalled his own father's service in the Army during World War II, saying that Memorial Day for him is "inextricably linked" to his father, who was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Purple Heart. "Like most combat veterans, he was an ordinary guy who was asked to do extraordinary things," he said. "For him, World War II was the adventure of a young lifetime. He loved to tell stories of his experiences, and I must confess that as a 10-year-old boy I could not fully appreciate all of those stories, but looking back through the prism of my own life, I can see what an impact it had on him."

As important as the things he shared were "the things he didn't talk about: the realities of war, friends dying, friends getting wounded, friendships formed by the common experience of war. It was the look in his eye when the body language would convey that the experience was not all glory and adventure. Only someone who has experienced war can truly understand it," Mr. Thiele said.

These many years later, "the places and objectives may change, but our soldiers have always maintained the same courage, valor, commitment, and sacrifice whenever called upon."

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. remembered his late father, who served in the Army during World War II. Matthew Charron
Firefighters carried the red, white, and blue -- and took shelter under it -- during East Hampton's parade.Matthew Charron
Tiger Scouts gathered at the memorial green at Hook Mill along with veterans, firefighters, and public officials, including, at right, Sylvia Overby, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, and Peter Van Scoyoc, all East Hampton Town Board members, Supervisor Larry Cantwell, and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. Matthew Charron
At left, Bill Mott, commander of the East Hampton American Legion post, at the podium, and John Geehreng were the masters of ceremony; at right, Brian Carabine of the V.F.W. Matthew Charron
Veterans in the "missing man" formation fired a salute to the departed. Matthew Charron
Rain or not, spectators turned out to watch the parade. Matthew Charron