NY National Guard conducts Memorial Day ceremony on May 23 at Latham headquarters

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Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, left, the assistant adjutant general, Army; and Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Hewson, salute during Memorial Day ceremonies on May 25, 2023.

LATHAM, NEW YORK (05/22/2024) (readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Brigadier General Isabel Smith, the director of joint staff, will preside over a Memorial Day Ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham on Thursday morning, May 23.

Members of the press are invited to cover the brief, outdoor ceremony.

WHO: Maj. Gen. Isabel Smith, an Iraq War veteran, and Soldiers and Airmen of the New York Army and Air National Guard and state and federal civilian employees who support the National Guard mission.

WHAT: A short ceremony to mark the Memorial Day holiday. The event will be held outside the Division of Military and Naval Affairs headquarters building and feature remarks from Smith. The names of members of the Army and Air National Guard who have died in the past year, but not in combat, will be read. There will be a moment of silence, and a bugler will play taps.

WHEN: 10 a.m., Thursday, May 23, 2023

WHERE: New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Headquarters, 330 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham.


Video and still imagery of the uniformed color guard and the bugler playing taps. There will be an opportunity to interview Natali after his remarks at the ceremony.

NOTE: The event will begin promptly at 10 a.m. and will be no longer than 15-20 minutes.

Members of the media must contact the Division of Military and Naval Affairs Public Affairs Office at 518-786-4581 for access to this secure military facility.


Memorial Day traces its history back to the traumatic events of the Civil War when 624,511 Soldiers on both sides died between 1861 and 1865. Families on both sides of the conflict wanted to remember those who had died.

The first Memorial Day celebration in the northern states took place in Waterloo, New York, on April 5, 1866, to mark the year since the end of the Civil War. These events were initially known as Decoration Day.

On that day, the village was decorated with flags at half-mast, evergreen branches -representing eternal life in the 19th century- and black ribbons to mourn for the dead. General John B. Murray. Murray, a local Civil War hero, led a procession to the village cemeteries where flowers were placed on the graves of those who had died in the fighting.

The village did it again in 1867. By 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic, the equivalent of the American Legion for Union War veterans, was urging a National Day of Remembrance on May 30, and the village, along with other New York communities, shifted its date to May 30.

In the south, a group of formerly enslaved people held a Memorial Day event in May of 1865, just a month after the war's end, marking the graves of Union Soldiers who died in battles around Charleston, South Carolina.

Other events were held across the south in communities to mark the graves of Confederate war dead as well.

Since then, the day's meaning has expanded to one of commemorating all those who have given their lives in defense of the

United States. Since 1971, the day has been officially commemorated on Monday following the last weekend in May.

Between the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, 39 New York Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen -7 Airmen and 32 Soldiers- lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent casualties occurred in 2018 when an HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter flown by the 106th Rescue Wing based at Westhampton Beach, New York, crashed in Iraq, killing four members of the wing.

In March, Chief Warrant Officers 2 Casey Frankoski and John Grassia, New York Army National Guard helicopter pilots, were killed while supporting the Border Patrol in a helicopter crash in Texas.