Small crowd gathers for Memorial Day ceremony in Oneida

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ONEIDA — Though the world faces uncertainty and makes sacrifices in the name of public health, it’s important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“In a year that the entire world is facing uncertainty and we find ourselves sacrificing for the good of humanity, this does not compare to the sacrifice made by so many brave men and women across our great nation,” Sunshine Hammon, president of the Oneida Memorial Association said at their Memorial Day Service.

A small crowd of people gathered at Triangle Park, while others observed from across the street or from their windows as the Oneida Memorial Association honored those who served and sacrificed for the nation.

Speaking this year was Nicholas Fedchenko, a Tech Sargent with the United States Air Force who served from 1987 to 1994. Fedchenko fought in Panama and the first Gulf War, among other operations. He served as a Michigan State Trooper for five years before marrying and moving to New York.

Recognizing the need to help fellow soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder, Fedchenko established Rally Veterans in Youth Sports — a foundation that reaches out to area veterans and gets them involved with their community and its children by holding events, coaching, and mentoring.

“Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation this weekend and every day,” Fedchenko said. “It’s not a lot but its one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.”

The Tech Sargent continued, saying that Memorial Day is a time to pause and honor the nation’s fallen, who died defending its values. “Freedom ranks among the greatest of gifts known to man but like anything of value, it has its price.”

“If you stop and listen closely, not with your ears but with your heart, you can hear the whisper of the army of the dead,” Fedchenko continued. “As they leave behind a life on earth worthy of honor, remembrance, and gratitude, they unceasingly utter ‘I love you to death’.”

On the subject of freedom, Pastor Gina Gausman of the Universalist Life Church quoted John F. Kennedy before the reading of the invocation. “Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom,” she said. “Can you imagine what it was like, being a black man at 22 and hearing that? And then immediately enlisting in the army?”

Gausman said those words did just that, compelling her father to enlist and do what’s necessary for his country.

Fedchenko said the nation and the world are facing a pandemic, wondering what’s going to happen next but have to be courageous and do what’s necessary.

“As a country, we are facing a virus. You can’t see it but it’s there,” Fedchenko said. “Right now, even during Memorial Day, we’re remembering those who gave their lives so that we can be standing here right now. Let’s stick this out and we’ll have better days in the future. Let’s dig in, jump in the foxhole, and gut it out like Americans. Because that’s what we do. Believe me, there have been harder times in American history. We can do this standing on our hands. We’ll get through this.”

“You know,” he continued. “I think this is a great Memorial Day. It’s not flashy but it’s a good one.”

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