New York National Guard Conducts Annual Memorial Day Ceremony Wednesday, May 24

Media Advisory

Related Media

Major General Anthony German, the Adjutant General of New York, speaking during the New York National Guard Memorial Day observance in 2016.

LATHAM, NY (05/23/2017) (readMedia)-- The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) and the New York National Guard will mark Memorial Day with a short ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters on Wednesday, May 24.

WHO: The state and federal civilian employees and military personnel of the New York National Guard and Division of Military and Naval Affairs.

WHAT: Short Memorial Day observance featuring remarks from Major General Anthony German, the Adjutant General of New York, the singing of the National Anthem, and the playing of Taps by a New York Army National Guard Soldier. The event will be held outside the building by the New York National Guard memorial to fallen Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, May 24

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

Coverage Opportunities:

Video and still imagery of Soldiers and Airmen in formation, the playing of Taps, and remarks by Major General Anthony German. Interviews with Major General German can be arranged.

Members of the media interested in attending to cover the event should contact the Division of Military and Naval Affairs Public Affairs Office at (518) 786-4581 for access to this secure military facility

Background Information:

Memorial Day originated in Waterloo, New York in May 1866 as a way to mark the sacrifice made by local soldiers who died during the Civil War. In 1868 the observance was endorsed by the Grand Army of the Republic-the main Union veterans' organization of the time-- and became a national event.

The first Memorial Day celebrations in New York marked the deaths of 53,837 New Yorkers who died in the Civil War. Another 52,055 New Yorkers have died in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.

Since 2001 there have been 597 military members who called New York their home, or who were stationed in New York, mostly at Fort Drum in Jefferson County, who have fallen in battle in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of those military members, 35 belonged to the New York Army National Guard and one Marine Corps Reservist was also a member of the New York Naval Militia.

Sergeant Heath McMillin of Canandaigua, assigned to the 105th Military Police Company, became the New York National Guard's first combat loss since the Korean War, July 27, 2003, when he was killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device.

New York Air National Guard Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, from the Bronx; and Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, from Coram; both members of the 105th Security Forces Squadron, are the most recent New York National Guard deaths in combat. The two men were killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Dec. 21, 2015.

New York Military Forces Memorial

The New York Military Forces Memorial depicts an inverted rifle and bayonet with helmet displayed inside a pair of combat boots, most often referred to as a battlefield cross.

The origins of the battlefield cross are vague, but appear to lie in the American Civil War. During the Civil War Soldiers were often sent home for burial or buried in an area designed to be a cemetery near the recent battle. After a battle, people would mark the bodies which needed to be recovered and the most convenient marker was a Soldier's rifle with its bayonet stuck into the ground with his hat placed on top.

During World War II, as units rapidly advanced, Soldiers and Marines would often bury the bodies of their fallen comrades in shallow graves. Once again placing a rifle with bayonet fixed into the ground and a helmet on top to indicate the remains. Over time, this image came to be associated with military loss.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the battlefield cross began to attract popular attention, with numerous units erecting the memorial battlefield cross to commemorate fallen comrades.

Although the battlefield cross itself is not an official military honor, it does play a part in the memorial ceremony as a visible reminder of the fallen Soldier.

The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen Soldier, their name never to be forgotten. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to a friend. The combat boots, worn and dirty, represents the soldier's final last march.