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Paying tribute to American soldiers' sacrifices Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda parade, service in Lackawanna mark Memorial Day

Rows of people, most of the time two- or three-deep, gathered on both sides of Delaware Avenue by 11 a.m. on a hot yet breezy Monday, many armed with lawn chairs, summer hats, coolers and their children, often pulling and pushing them around in wagons or strollers.

Vendors sold balloons, cotton candy, Silly String and plastic toy trumpets that could be heard up and down the stretch. And convertibles lined up, awaiting the start of the annual Memorial Day Parade in Kenmore -- one of the largest observances in the area paying tribute to veterans.

The parade -- held by the Town of Tonawanda in conjunction with Milton J. Brounshidle Post 205, American Legion; Harry E. Crosby Post 2472, Veterans of Foreign Wars; and the Village of Kenmore -- featured trucks from an array of fire departments, vintage cars, emergency and police vehicles, Irish dancers, bagpipers and marching bands from Kenmore West High School and Mount St. Mary Academy, among others.

A Memorial Day service also was held in Lackawanna at Matthew Glab Post 1477, American Legion, on Abbott Road, which included remarks from veterans and Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski, a presentation of wreaths and a firing squad salute.

Others across the area took time to remember those who gave their lives in the armed forces, gathering for services and parades in many communities.

Dorothy Lien, 80, of the Town of Tonawanda, said her favorite parts of the parade were the bagpipers and the dancers from Clann Na Cara School of Irish Dance. Lien clapped along with the dancers' Irish music as they passed her and her daughter, Karen Hopkins, who has come with her to the parade for the past 10 years.

Town of Tonawanda resident Michael Romeo observed his first Ken-Ton Memorial Day Parade with his wife and three children. Romeo, 36, said he told his children of the importance of the holiday.

"I'm trying to teach them that Memorial Day is more than just a picnic day," he said.

Though Williamsville resident Angus MacLeod now watches the parade, he used to be a regular participant. MacLeod, 79, first took part in the parade when he was 15 as a pipe band member and didn't stop until about 10 years ago.

So, naturally, he had some critiques of Monday's parade. In years past, MacLeod said, there have been more drum and bugle bands and floats. Now, he said, the parade has more people simply walking and isn't as colorful.

The meaning of Memorial Day was on full display at the Matthew Glab Post in Lackawanna, in spite of microphone difficulties.

The half-hour service, which was held outside, included a reading of deceased Legion members' names, prayers, songs and comments from Szymanski, among others.

A bone also was presented to the post's mascot, Rio, a puppy who was saved in Afghanistan by Army Staff Sgt. Bob Cook of Cheektowaga.

None of the City Council showed up, angering the mayor.

"There isn't a member of the City Council here," Szymanski said. "Last year and the last six years that I was on the City Council, four out of the five members of the Council were veterans. It's just disappointing."

Szymanski, who served in the Navy from 1993 to 1998 as a machinist, said Memorial Day is meant to honor "those who have given everything so that we can have what we have in this country."

Past American Legion National Commander Michael J. Kogutek served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 and was involved in the invasions of the Philippines and New Guinea.

"It means a lot, being a World War II veteran," said Kogutek, 86. "As you know, the World War II veterans are passing on, and I'm still doing this to make sure that on Memorial Day we remember. Let me say, our soldiers are not dead until they are forgotten."