LATHAM — The New York National Guard’s headquarters staff marked Memorial Day with a short ceremony outside the Division of Military and Naval Affairs building in Latham, New York, on Thursday, May 25, 2023.
Major General Michele Natali, the assistant adjutant General, Army, marked the occasion by reminding his listeners that Memorial Day originated in New York.
On May 5, 1866, as the Civil War was ending, a pharmacist in the Finger Lakes village of Waterloo, New York led fellow citizens in commemorating local Soldiers who had been killed in the war by decorating their graves with flowers.
New York, Natali pointed out, contributed over a half-million men to the United States Army and Navy during the Civil War. The state also sustained 52,993 military deaths during the war, more than any other state.
“All of our current military and national traditions date back to a transformative event in our nation’s history,” Natali said.
“The Memorial Day observance is one such tradition rooted squarely in New York and in the history of the military forces of New York dating back to the Civil War,” he said.
Of the 467,047 New Yorkers who served in the United States Army in the Civil War, only 6,089 were in the Regular Army Natali said.
It was a war fought by volunteers, many of whom had been in the militia, the forerunners of the National Guard, Natali said.
Since the Civil War, the National Guard has served on battlefields around the world and at home assisting in natural disasters or civil crises, Natali said.
“Our people: our Soldiers, families and civilian work force are at the center of everything,” Natali said. “They-you-are the most important component enabling us to continue writing future chapters in our collective history.”
New York Assembly Member Philip Steck, an Albany-area representative also spoke briefly during the ceremony.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Hewson, the senior enlisted advisor for the New York Air National Guard, also read a list of 12 names of New York Military Forces members and civilian employees who have died since Memorial Day, 2022.
The New York Military Forces consists of the New York Army and Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, and the New York Guard. The latter two are state defense forces whose members augment that National Guard during state missions
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 39 New York Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen -7 Airmen and 32 Soldiers- have lost their lives serving 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 crashed in Iraq.
Since Memorial Day 2022, the New York National Guard deployed over 2,500 Soldiers on missions ranging from providing security at military bases in the Horn of Africa, to training Ukrainian Soldiers, to conducting logistics missions in the Middle East.