AMERICA'S SOLDIERS HONORED AND RECALLED COLD DAY IN THE SUN FOR VETS

Richard Wexler Staff writer and wire reports
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 1986

The cold was the damp, bone- chilling kind and the snow blew into the faces of the dignitaries and the spectators, but for Albany's veterans Tuesday was still their day in the sun.


The former Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Washington Park, restored to its past glory, was formally unveiled and renamed the Albany Veterans Memorial Monument. The ceremony followed an 75-minute hour Veterans Day parade of military units and marching bands down Central Avenue and Northern Boulevard. "There are no summer soldiers here," declared Richard Conners, the Albany assemblyman who chairs the Assembly's Veterans Affairs Committee, during the dedication ceremony.


Meanwhile, in Ballston Spa, about 80 people gathered to dedicate the Saratoga County Veterans Memorial. The monument is the first county war memorial to be built in the state, according to county Board of Supervisors Chairman Roy J. McDonald.


Elsewhere around the nation, somber vigils for missing soldiers and remembrances of the dead mixed with triumphant patriotism in parades and ceremonies, a day that brought new Vietnam monuments from Olympia, Wash., to Baltimore.


In Albany, city Treasurer Raymond Joyce, a retired lieutenant colonel and the master of ceremonies for the unveiling, praised the "durable patriots" who showed up for what he called "a miracle in Washington Park."


Mayor Thomas M. Whalen III called the monument, originally dedicated to veterans of the Civil War, "one of the most impressive and unique Civil War monuments in the United States."


"The restoration of this monument is symbolic of the loving restoration, over the past three years, of this great city of Albany," said Whalen, who first took office in 1983.


The chairman of the city's Tricentennial Commission, Lewis Swyer, called the neglect of the monument over the years "a gross act of ... callousness and indifference." He called the restoration "one of the most significant acts" of the Tricentennial.


And U.S. Rep. Samuel S. Stratton, D- Schenectady, praised service organizations for defending veterans programs against federal budget cuts.


Whenever the foul weather upset the organizers' plans, they improvised.


The actual unveiling was supposed to be accomplished by pulling on a rope which would release a blue plastic covering atop the monument. Grace VanderVeer McDonough and Mary Myers McManus, who as 12-year- old girls unveiled the monument when it was completed in 1912, had returned at age 85 to do the honors again.


McManus said that in 1912, the rope mechanism didn't work. And it failed again in 1986. Workers who had set the mechanism up pulled the covering down by hand, dumping snow on the platform behind the dignitaries and knocking over the public-address-system microphone. "It worked great in rehearsal," Joyce said.


And at the close of the ceremony, when the band couldn't play "God Bless America," Joyce invited the crowd to sing it a cappella.


The monument restoration cost $200,000 - twice the cost of building it. The money came from corporate and private contributions. Joyce said the committee that raised the funds plans to continue raising money to restore other Albany monuments, and to pay for landscaping at the restored veterans monument in the spring.


The ceremony followed a parade in which young musicians and baton twirlers gamely tried to keep up their routines as snow blew in their faces.


Though the weather kept the crowd down to about 800, according to police, almost every doorway along the parade route harbored a knot of enthusiastic spectators.


Betty Saumurski of Albany spoke for many when she spelled out why she braved the weather to watch the parade: "K-i-d-s," Saumurski declared, pointing to her children.


The weather didn't bother the Saumurskis, who watched the parade from the doorway of the Earthworld comics store at 327 Central Ave. "We feel like we have a condo here."


For other spectators, the parade had special meaning. "I'm a World War II veteran. I went through everything there. What's a little snow?" said John Gannon, 65.


One young man stood almost at attention as he waited for the unveiling in Washington Park. As the speeches went on, a small boy who came with him grew restless, and finally the man had to leave. But he didn't want to go.


"Dad, can we leave now?" The boy asked. "You can see it some other time."


The father replied: "It wouldn't be the same thing."


In Saratoga County, four color guards from veterans organizations from Saratoga Springs, Halfmoon and Ballston Spa stood at the edges of the new memorial, commemorating nine wars fought by Saratoga County's veterans.


"This is only the beginning of programs by this (Saratoga County Veterans) council," said Ernie Leffner, county Veterans Agency director.


Bill Norris of Halfmoon said the monument, which is a globe on a pedestal surrounded by nine benches, would bring all the county's veterans together. "We know why we fought."


The memorial was approved by the county Board of Supervisors late this summer. The project was backed by the county Veterans Council as a way to honor all veterans in the county.


Doug Taylor of Wilton, who represented the state Division of Veterans Affair, said it was important to have monuments such as Saratoga County's to remind people of the sacrifices that have been made by previous generations. "Our children are the next wave of soldiers," he said.


Elsewhere around the nation, braving a drenching rain Tuesday, American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery in Alrington, Va., and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., unfurled their bandages and banners for the nation to commemorate.


Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said at Arlington, "Free nations have no choice but to defend themselves with more than just moral righteousness." He warned against "rationalizations for short-changing America's security."


While at the black granite wall built to honor Vietnam veterans, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said this last wartime generation knows better than most to "avoid any glorification of war."


In New York City, hundreds of veterans marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue Tuesday despite a cold rain.


For some Vietnam veterans who returned home at a time when the nation's appreciation of their service was mired in war protests, this Veterans Day brought long-awaited symbols of gratitude.


Ground was broken in Olympia, Wash., for a memorial that will list the names of 1,055 state citizens killed or missing as a result of the Vietnam War.


Ground also was broken for the Maryland Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Baltimore, which cost $2.5 million, raised partly by Paul Kozloski and four other veterans who walked across the state this summer.


Staff writer Kenneth C. Crowe II contributed to this report.