BETHLEHEM — The American Legion Nathaniel Adams Blanchard Post 1040 has postponed its annual Memorial Day Parade for now due to crowding and safety concerns amid COVID-19. However, its Memorial Day Ceremony and an additional honorary ceremony for late veteran Francis S. Currey — these two ceremonies are only for Legion Post members and their families — are still happening on Monday, May 25 though.
Lyle Maddock, the Legion Post’s commander, said, “[The parade is] postponed for now and to be determined. I’ve reached out to Town Supervisor [David] VanLuven to see if we can do something for the Fourth of July. I have to discuss it with our board of directors when we next meet again hopefully next month.”
He expressed disappointment about postponing the parade. “No one thought [the pandemic] would come to this magnitude but we have to ensure safety for people and the veterans who are elderly.”
VanLuven said there may be ways for people to social distance “but we just can’t have people gather along the sidewalks or along the parade route.” He also welcomed the idea of postponing the parade to July 4 if the pandemic slows down then.
“For many years, the Nathaniel Adams Blanchard American Legion Post has organized the Memorial Day Parade,” he said. “The parade is a defining part of our town culture and something we all look forward to.”
Although the Memorial Day Parade is postponed, the Legion Post’s Memorial Day Ceremony will still happen on May 25 where members will meet at the Nathanial Adams Blanchard’s gravesite in the Bethlehem Cemetery at 10:15 a.m. for the 10:30 a.m. ceremony.
Members will also visit the South Bethlehem Cemetery at 11:30 a.m. for an additional honorary ceremony for veteran Francis S. Currey who died at his Selkirk home in October 2019 at the age of 94. Born in 1925, Currey was one of the last three living World War II veterans who received the Medal of Honor.
Color Guard members and the Honor Huard are requested to be there. If any members are sick or don’t feel well, they are encouraged to not attend. All attendees must wear face masks and except for family groups, maintain social distancing.
Maddock said to his knowledge, this year was the first time the Memorial Day Parade has been postponed though.
This year’s parade’s grand marshal was to be longtime Legion Post member George E. “Gerry” Decker Jr. and Maddock said he will still be if the parade happens on July 4.
Born and raised in Delmar, Decker, who now lives with his family in Slingerlands, graduated from Bethlehem Central High School in 1965. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1966, completing construction mechanic school and was assigned to the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion, or Seabees, in Gulfport, Mississippi. He also completed two combat tours, lasting 21 months, in Vietnam where he provided construction support.
Decker enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1974 and retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer after serving in several Seabee commands in 1998. He has been a member of Legion Post 1040 for 51 years, where he used to serve as its commander and is now on its executive board.
Maddock said he helped choose Decker to be this year’s parade’s grand marshal “because he has done so much over the years. He felt honored and he’s really well-known throughout the community and it was a great selection on my behalf and Scott Edward Anson, the chairman of our board.”
In a written letter that was meant for the May 25 parade booklet, Maddock wrote that is important “to remember all that have ultimately given the most for their beloved country. Pray for those that have died or got injured serving this nation of ours. Remember the families, friends and neighbors that live today because of those fallen heroes that defended our freedom around the world.”
If the parade eventually cannot happen on July 4 too, Maddock said he expects to “definitely have the best parade ever had in Bethlehem next year.”