A transcript of Memorial Day remarks from Rye Mayor Doug French with some great stories of Rye soldiers:
Rye City Memorial Day
May 27th 2013
Remarks – Mayor Douglas French
Good morning and thank you Post Commander
It is an honor to be here with Rye Post 128. Few moments are more profound to me as Mayor than to be here with you on this day. Each one of you represents a sense of patriotism and a sense of duty that is admired and respected by us all.
Thank you to all of the residents who have come out today – this is the best turnout on this day I have yet to see -- especially the many of you from our younger generation. That says a lot. Welcome to our public officials who are here today – State Assemblyman Steve Otis, County Legislator Judy Myers, Deputy Mayor Peter Jovanovich and Rye City Council Richard Filippi and Julie Killian.
This day is our National time to reflect.
But this day, Decoration Day, is really about local communities. It started in small communities, such as ours, with people coming together (planned or spontaneous) to honor the dead and decorate the grave sites of the fallen heroes. It tapped the general human need to honor the dead.
As the years have gone on, we have honored them with the memorial to my right, and have remembered their names, and have been thankful for their sacrifice. Yet, behind each one is a story – an American story, a Rye story. The best way to truly honor them is to remember who they were. That has been hard to do over the generations – until now. A volunteer committee group through the Rye Historical Society has begun putting together the stories behind the names on the City’s honor roll.
Stories like James “Sonny” Larkin who lived just a little up the street here at 262 Purchase Street. A Rye High School graduate of 1941. He fought at Iwo Jima – perhaps the most brutal and costliest battle in American history. But the day he died, March 4th 1945 was described as the unsuspected turning point on Iwo Jima as the Marines chewed through a substantial chunk of the Japanese main defenses – forcing them to shift their command post.
Or George Mergenthaler, born in 1921, also lived on Purchase Street. A graduate of Princeton. On December 18th 1941, his unit was ambushed by the enemy in Luxemburg. He jumped in the rear seat of the vehicle and took control of the 50-caliber machine gun, urging his fellow soldiers to take cover in a nearby ditch. The machine gun kept jamming, and on the second time, he lost his life to a German soldier. It was called the Battle of the Bulge.
Forty years after his death, President Reagan spoke in Luxemburg about the war and spoke of George. He said: “To me, the most memorable story is about a strapping young man named George Mergenthaler. For several weeks George was stationed in the Village of Eschweiler. He had a winning personality, and before long, the good people of Eschweiler took him into their homes and into their hearts. They told him of what life was like before the Nazi occupation. He told them he was an only son and about all of his hopes after the war. A deep bond had formed between the people and the young Yankee. There is still a plaque in the village honoring George that reads -- “This only son died that ‘others’ sons might live in love and peace.”
That is the meaning of today. Not only do we honor their sacrifice, but we also draw inspiration from who they were. I want to thank the committee for their work and encourage everyone to get involved and get more information as they build out the biographies of our veterans. Remembering them is the best way we can say thank you.