ALBANY, N.Y. –Vietnam veterans Tom Regan and Gene Loparco have launched a campaign aimed at remembering the more than 1,200 Capital Region service members who have died in combat. ‘Operation: Please Remember Me' will adorn Route 9 in Colonie with flags of remembrance beginning Friday, May 10, but Tuesday marks the night those flags will be blessed by a host of government officials and community members in the first annual ‘Blessing of the Flags' ceremony.
To preserve the memory of and show appreciation for those who have fallen, Regan, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam era, Loparco, who served in the Air Force and the Tri-County Council of Vietnam Era Veterans gathered support from elected leaders in organizing the efforts. Backed by former Congressman Michael McNulty, who will deliver the keynote address at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post 1520 in Albany, Town of Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan, Congressman Paul Tonko, State Senator Neil Breslin, City of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, County Executive Dan McCoy, The American Legion and community members across the region, the men have succeeded in receiving the funding they needed.
"This truly is a historic event," Loparco said. "We really want everyone in the community to partake in this event in commemoration of these veterans. Tonight, we want to bless not just the flags and the families of those they represent, but also this event as a whole—it really is history in the making."
The new community project will involve hanging more than 120 American flags along Route 9 in Colonie, from the city line in Albany to its intersection with Route 155. The flags will be displayed by National Grid volunteers on utility poles a week before the Gold Star Family motorcade procession.
The procession will include veterans and family members of the more than 1,200 fallen veterans symbolically represented by the flags, who will travel up the road on May 18th. The flags will remain up through July 6th. Regan said they chose Route 9 not only because of its heavy traffic, but also because it served as a military road during the Revolutionary War.
"We couldn't have asked for more support from our community in this effort," Regan said. "This is a testament to our history, our unity and our gratitude to honor those who, like some of my own friends, have supported this country by offering the ultimate sacrifice."
The group received funding for the flags from local schools and businesses, various community organizations, and individual volunteers since the proposal was approved on the 71st anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012.
A fund has been established with Trustco Bank to continue to receive donations in support of ‘Operation: Please Remember Me.' For more information visit: www.pleaserememberme.org.