My letter to the Editor, published in Blue Stone Press – June 20, 2014
While attending Rochester’s Town Board meeting on May 1, I got tears in my eyes learning that the entire ceremony at the Veterans Park on Memorial Day would be dedicated to our fallen hero Sgt. Shawn Farrell II, killed in action in Afghanistan on April 28, 2014.
It sank in that finalizing the Veterans Park after many delays and obstacles was well worth it; it sank in that Veterans Park can have a profound impact on people’s lives – now more than ever before, as this Memorial Day was the saddest in memory for our town.
A 2008 graduate of RVSD, Shawn Farrell II was a colleague of Supervisor Carl Chipman’s daughter and Youth Commission Chair Jessica Knapp’s son. It is not a coincidence that these two people were at the heart of an emotional, solemn ceremony at the Veterans Park on Memorial Day. They deserve congratulations for the way the event was conceived, for the soul they put into everything. Christian Greenhouse (members of recently deceased veteran Harry Christian’s family) deserves thanks for donating the superb flowers and wreath.
Carl Chipman was the MC of the event, which included the participation of Kerhonkson Boy Scouts Troop 22 as honor guard, our district’s UC Legislator Lynn Archer and Rondout Valley Schools District Superintendent Rosario Agostaro as speakers, then the “Fallen Comrades Table” moment created by Jessica Knapp, and ended with the young bugler from RVSD Steven Snyder playing the Taps.
Jessica Knapp, feeling that our Youth Commission’s presence has to be truly special this year, came up with the idea of having the “Fallen Comrades Table” moment.
In the middle of the Veterans Park was a table set for one and an empty chair, symbolizing the absence of soldiers that are prisoners of war, missing in action, or killed in action. “They are called fallen comrades,” Jessica Knapp read; she continued to present the significance of each object on the table, a single rose and a single white candle, white gloves, a sword, an inverted wine glass and a plate with a slice of lemon and salt.
“This small table, set for one, represents the frailty of life for each of us. The table cloth is black and white. The white represents the purity of their intentions to serve and the black represents our mourning for our fallen comrades.”
“The single rose and single candle reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades in arms who keep the faith, awaiting their return.”
“An inverted wine glass represents the toast our fallen comrades cannot make with us today. Our hope today is that they will hear us as we toast their ultimate sacrifice.”
A sign created by children for a Memorial Day float read “All gave some, some gave all, Hero Sgt. Shawn Farrell, Thank you.” By having this ceremony we just “gave some,” while Shawn gave it all. We will always remember and thank Sgt. Shawn Farrell II – and his family – for his supreme sacrifice while serving.
Town of Rochester Youth Commission member
Manuela Michailescu with Jessica Knapp, Chair of the Youth Commission, after the ceremony. For more photos of Town of Rochester’s Memorial Day observance please visit Blue Stone Press’ website.