WYOMING — The sidewalks of Wyoming and West Wyoming were lined with residents on Monday to watch the annual Memorial Day parade and to honor fallen servicemen and women.
Children and adults waved at the procession as it drove past. Vehicles included emergency apparatus, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, as well as classic cars flying American flags.
Every so often, some members of the procession would throw handfuls of candy for children to claim.
While many of the spectators were from the area, Chris Yurek and his girlfriend, Lucy Kelly, made the trip from New York City to see the parade.
Yurek, 33, explained that he came to the parade to see his grandfather, George Yurek, 94, a World War II veteran, who was in the parade.
It was his first time attending the parade.
“We come a couple times a year, but first time seeing the parade,” Yurek said. “I’m excited to see him (his grandfather) in the parade.”
Monday’s parade also marked several firsts for Kelly.
Kelly, 32, said she moved to the U.S. from Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England, about five months ago. It was not only her first time at the borough’s parade, but her first experience of a Memorial Day holiday.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s a little slice of America.”
Remembering the fallen
Several local veterans organizations were represented in the parade, including American Legion posts 904 and 883 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 396.
The parade eventually proceeded to the Wyoming Cemetery for a short ceremony.
Rick Yarosavich Sr., 67, a veteran of the 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, stressed that honoring fallen servicemen and women was the focal point of the holiday.
“They gave up all their tomorrows so we could have our todays,” Yarosavich said.
Thomas Falzone, 92, a veteran of World War II, was this year’s parade grand marshal. After being drafted in 1946, he eventually served in Italy, where one of his many experiences included guarding the bodies of Benito Mussolini and his mistress after they were killed.
He, too, stressed the importance of remembering fallen soldiers that helped to ensure the country’s freedom.
“We have to keep remembering them,” Falzone said. “They’re the ones that made the country what it is.”
Retired Master Sgt. Ronald Semanski was the special guest speaker for the ceremony. He served with the U.S. Air Force and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. During his speech, he read “In Flanders Fields,” a poem by John McCrae about fallen soldiers during World War I.
More often than not, he said, the holiday is synonymous the opening of local pools, or when professionals get a long weekend off work.
“It’s so much more than the day the pools open, it is so much more than a three-day weekend,” Semanski said.
He also spoke about the history of the holiday and why it is important to remember local veterans who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Semanski mentioned David Morgan, a 38-year-old GAR High School graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who died in 2013 from complications due to a traumatic brain injury suffered while serving in Kuwait in 2009.
He also spoke of Brian Patton, 37, who died on Nov. 18, 2009, in a vehicle crash near Camp Virginia in northern Kuwait, where he was serving with the Naval Operational Support Center from Rochester, N.Y.
“They had families, including young children, who loved them, and they died in their 30s,” he said.
Semanski also gave several statistics from wars throughout history, including the number of American soldiers that were never able to return home.
“We must never forget their sacrifices,” Semanski said.
Ceremonies were also held at the VFW War Memorial on Wyoming Avenue, the Wyoming Borough War Monument on Breese Street and the War Monument at Eighth Street Corners before the parade.