By Allison Collins
SIDNEY – Despite a steadily increasing downpour midday Thursday, May 25, seats, tents and sidewalks were full for the annual Memorial Day Service of the New York State Police at Troop C.
After the traditional procession of members of the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band, Troop Commander Major James Barnes opened the ceremony, welcoming notable guests Senator James Seward, Senator Fred Akshar and Assemblyman Clifford Crouch.
Barnes called the day an occasion to “renew old friendships, reflect on the past and, above all, remember … genuine American heroes.” Underscoring his gratitude for those community leaders, family members, fellow law enforcement and politicians in attendance, Barnes said, “Today we pay homage to those who came before.”
Discussing the history of Troop C, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017, with a special exhibit planned for October of this year, Barnes said, “The fidelity and courage of the original troopers transcends times.” Barnes continued, “They were bringing law and order to rural New York communities and being seen as an integral part of the communities they served.” Here, Barnes noted that those values “still ring true” for members of Troop C. Admitting that, today, “challenges are more complex,” Barnes added, “[We] continue to serve with honor, distinction and great courage.”
Senator Seward spoke briefly, saying, “I commend everyone at Troop C for carrying on the tradition of honoring fallen troopers.” Calling the yearly observance “wonderful,” Seward continued, “It’s always a moving ceremony and it’s appropriately scheduled between Police Memorial Week and the nation’s Memorial Day holiday.”
Referencing the 17 fallen troopers from Troop C specifically over the division’s history, as well as all fallen policemen and –women, Seward emphasized, “Their sacrifice and service is never, ever forgotten. They were individuals with a great sense of duty, valor and honor.” To that, he added, “We hail their courage, dedication and heroism.”
Akshar, himself a former 15-year member of law enforcement, called it a “privilege” to speak at the ceremony and described his own service as a “distinct pleasure.” Echoing those before him, Akshar said, “This is one of the noblest professions on earth and we are a community and a nation that remembers our heroes and celebrates … the excellence they stand for.”
Before reading out the names of the 17 fallen Troop C troopers, Barnes noted that the common bond amongst members of “the long gray line … cannot be understood,” adding that that sense of fraternity is never felt more deeply than with the loss of a fellow officer.
To date, Troop C has lost the following troopers, in chronological order: Harold C. Mattice, Ernest M. Simpson, John H. Lockhart, Richard L. Hedges, Milton Ratner, Richard T. Juna, Kenneth B. Knapp, Robert V. Conklin, Arthur M. Diffendale, Patrick F. O’Hara, Samuel N. Rowe, Bryant F. Stickle, Robert M. Semrov, Ricky J. Parisian, David C. Brinkerhoff, Jill E. Mattice and, in 2014, Christopher G. Skinner. The 17 names are memorialized on a permanent monument at the base of the flag cresting the Troop C hilltop.
As is customary, the family of a late trooper placed a commemorative wreath, with this year’s honor going to Linda Hamilton and her sons. Linda is the wife of retired trooper George Hamilton and the pair’s sons have all, as noted by Barnes, “gone on to serve in [their] father’s footsteps” as members of various regional law enforcement agencies.
The ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute and a last performance by the pipe band. As rain continued to fall and the ceremony concluded, the sound of father-daughter bugle duo, Investigator Aaron Lewis and Elisabeth Lewis, playing out “Taps” along the barrack hillside mixed with the lingering smell of gunpowder on the air.