The Town of Colonie is one of the few places in the country that has a motorcade procession and ceremony honoring families of the 1,201 men and women from the Capital District that have made the ultimate sacrifice in foreign wars since WWII.
On Saturday, May 17, “Operation: Please Remember Me” honored Gold Star family members with a motorcade of more than 50 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders escorting Gold Star Mothers down Route 9 — the old memorial highway — to the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post 1520.
The route along Route 9 was lined with 120 American flags on the light posts, each honoring 10 of the 1201 veterans that died, with a black ribbon on the flag to signify mourning. The flags will remain up from Memorial Day to July 4.
“It’s to honor and respect more than anything else,” said Gene Loparco, secretary and treasurer of Please Remember Me. Loparco is a Vietnam era veteran who served in the Air Force.
“Let the public know that freedom isn’t free and that 1201 GI’s, including one woman, made the supreme sacrifice. The last one was Todd Clark, June 8,” said Loparco.
Lt. Col. Todd J. Clark, born in Albany, was killed on his fifth deployment last June. Clark was part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum and was in the Paktika Province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Clark had served 17 years in the Army and received a Purple Heart on his fourth deployment when he was badly wounded by a roadside bomb on his first deployment to Afghanistan. His three prior tours were in Iraq.
“Today’s activities are important because we’re standing up and honoring those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and the Gold Star Mothers and families to keep their spirit involved,” said Jack Clark, the father of Todd J. Clark.
“We were involved in the first one, that was prior to my sons death, and now we’re committed more than ever to make sure this comes off every year, with increased attendance every year. It’s just a one of a kind event, one of the few in the country right now. It’s a real credit to Albany that we took the bull by the horns to do something like this. I’m sure the rest of the nation will follow,” said Clark.
“Operation: Please Remember Me” was created in 2012 by Tom Regan, a Vietnam era Navy Veteran, to raise money for repairs to the Vietnam Memorial in the City of Albany’s Lafayette Park. Created in 1992, time and weather have taken a toll on the monument and Regan wanted to restore it.
Trustco Bank and its President and CEO, Robert McCormick, supplied the first corporate and personal donations to the organization. Regan said the event would not have been possible if it were not for those donations.
“Every penny that’s donated to ‘Please Remember Me’ go to flags, goes to the insurance, the lights and the expenses. The remainder goes to our restoration of our Vietnam Memorial, which I can say is coming to an end,” said Regan.
National Grid is donating the use of its trucks to haul dirt, mulch and debris. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 97 donated time and equipment to install flags along the route.
“Every single lineman volunteered to come in on their own time, at 4 o’clock in the morning, to hang those brackets and flags. On a cold winter morning they started, and time after time they came. They gave us their time and equipment to honor those fallen soldiers,” said Regan.
Please Remember Me also sells hats, T-shirts and bags to raise money for the restoration project. So far, they have raised $8,000, but Loparco says they need about $40,000 more. Donations for the project are accepted at the Trustco Bank, Newton Plaza Office at 602 Loudon Rd in Latham.
National Grid will have 25 employees at the memorial on the morning of June 1 to continue the restoration efforts. More information can be found at pleaserememberme.org.