Despite the din of traffic going by the military-neat line of sycamores on Route 9, there was no trouble hearing the commanding voice of Col. Glenn Marchi.
The G-3 Operations Officer of the New York Guard defined to the crowd of mostly service men and women the word “hero” – not only a term for those who were killed or seriously wounded in their service but to all those who serve. He praised everyday volunteers like our EMS workers and firefighters and all the finely uniformed folk present at this ceremony to honor the fallen men on our home turf during World War I.
At on Sunday morning, National Guard members, New York City DEP Police, the 89th New York Guard Band and others, gathered in front of the monument dedicated to the men who died defending the Catskill Aqueduct (and thus protecting New York City's water supply) between the years of 1917 and 1919.
Much of the country was swept up in anti-German hysteria at the time and our most vital waterways were deemed vulnerable. Of the 1,200 citizen soldiers who volunteered to protect the aqueduct from possible sabotage, 40 died. Thirty-two of the deaths were due to the Spanish influenza, part of a pandemic that would claim 50 million lives around the world. Some were only teenagers.
For these men, there was “no parade, no public accolades,” said another speaker Chief Peter Fusco of the DEP police.
There are however public accolades now, every first Sunday in May, for as long as these folks have anything to do with it.