HOMETOWN HAPPENINGS: Everyday Heroes

BY TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN SUPERVISOR GEORGE HOEHMANN

Carry the Load is a national organization founded by veterans to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day.  The not-for-profit has since expanded its mission to provide meaningful ways to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our great country.  One of those ways is through its annual National Relay that travels 2,100 miles from West Point to Texas carrying the American flag.

Four years ago, Sean Magee, a community-minded, Congers resident, who happens to also be a veteran saw Carry the Load quietly walking through Congers on their very first national relay. He stopped to inquire what they were doing and immediately started making plans for the following year. He brought the idea of a Congers Rally to me when I was a Councilman and we started collaborating.

Clarkstown is fortunate to be one the locations where a changing of the flag occurs, right in downtown Congers. Each year hundreds of residents, boy scouts, girl scouts, little leagues, veterans, and officials march with Carry the Load into Congers Station Park. It has become a significant event in our Town as we all join together to remember those we have lost serving our country. It is heartening to see families bring their children out to remember and honor our true heroes. This is how we teach future generations about their sacrifice.

In our efforts to further the mission of Carry the Load, this year we collaborated with the Clarkstown Central School District to conduct an essay/scholarship contest, asking students “What does Memorial Day Mean to You?” We received an overwhelming response with nearly 50 submissions of well-prepared, yet sincere, essays from students of both Clarkstown North and South High Schools. The Committee was impressed with the commitment of students and their understanding of the true meaning of Memorial Day. Thank you to Anchor Media Services for sponsoring the scholarship and congratulations to Jocelyn Weber of Clarkstown South High School for winning!

Many local veterans join us in Congers to remember their fallen comrades. However, Carry the Load also gives us a chance to thank them for their service. Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work closely with veterans in my various capacities; assisting them with their needs and helping them tell their stories to local students. My father was a veteran who served in Korea. Like many, he didn’t talk much about his experience in the service. I have always been so proud of him.

This event reminds me why Clarkstown is the best place to live. I am proud to see us all come together to honor our heroes. Let’s keep bringing our children to these types of events, teaching them about sacrifice and freedom. Thank you to all the volunteers, BRiDGES of Rockland County, the Congers VMA, Congers and Valley Cottage Fire Departments, Clarkstown Police Honor Guard and Police Auxiliary, U.S. Marine Corp League of Rockland County, Rockland County Vietnam Veterans and the Nam Knights for participating and helping with the event. I look forward to it again next year!