By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — On a sun-splashed Sunday morning, it was a collection of young and old alike that came to the Falls' Veterans Memorial to show their appreciation.
Between 300 and 400 people stood at the newly completed monument in Hyde Park on what was the traditional Veterans Day to honor those local vets who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. Veterans Day is being officially celebrated today.
"The (Veterans Memorial) committee felt the tradition of (celebrating on) 11/11 was very important," said Ken Hamilton, one of the committee commissioners.
The memorial features the names of over 1,400 local armed services members and the Memorial Day service was the first event there since the monument was completed.
"To watch people go up the monument and see them cry and tremble as they looked at it was more awesome then (realizing) the tons of granite it was made from," Hamilton said.
The design and construction of the memorial has been a labor of love for local veterans. But Hamilton said watching the crowds of people pass by on Sunday made all of the work involved worthwhile.
"You know, people thanked me for my service," Hamilton said. "But the opportunity to allow them to celebrate the service of their veterans was what was important."
The service featured the Niagara Falls Police Honor Guard and Officer Dave Cudahy played the bagpipes. The Western New York Young Marines were also there and led the Pledge of Allegence.
The Rev. Jessie Scott, a Navy veteran, provided prayers.
The featured speaker was Niagara University ROTC candidate James Kemnitz. Kemnitz, who will be commissioned as a a second lieutenant when he graduates from NU in May told the crowd the memorial was a fitting tribute to those who served.
"It represents a coming together for veterans and those who gave their lives," Kemnitz said.
Hamilton called Kemnitz's appearance a fitting way to show the continuing role of the memorial.
"We're getting older," Hamilton said. "We want to include as many young people as we can so they can take value in what we've done."