Veterans’ families moved by Lake Placid flag ceremonies

Mike Pratt holds a flag for Raymond Pratt during a Veterans Day ceremony in Lake Placid. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

LAKE PLACID — Under cloudy and at times rainy skies beginning at 9:30 a.m., flags were raised on Veterans Day for Richard Smart, Harry Allan Jacobs Jr., and Henry Michael Cooney Jr. at the Adirondack Community Church, Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid nursing home, and the new Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center, in that order.

Then at 10:50, flags were raised at American Legion Post 326 on Main Street for Kenneth Hare, Raymond Levitt and Guy Wescott. All the flags raised will fly until Memorial Day in 2021.

Flags were lowered for Paul Thornton, Stanley VanCour, Arthur Volmrich, Daniel Dougherty, Steve Perry and Raymond Pratt. VanCour’s flag was the last flown at the old Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid, and Cooney’s was the first raised at its replacement, the Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center.

Assisted by veteran Bob Marvin, American Legion Post 326 Commander Stuart Spotts led the ceremonies and raised and lowered the flags at all the sites. After each flag was lowered and folded, Spotts presented it to the family of the veteran it honored.

“Our family was very honored to have a flag flown for my dad,” said Mike Pratt, head of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, after receiving the one for Ray Pratt. “It was doubly special because his flag was closest to the rink and the school where he spent so much time.”

Kimball Daby said it was his honor and privilege to play “Taps” for all these men who served their country. Shelley VanCour, daughter of Korean War veteran Stanley VanCour, summed up the feelings of many.

“Having a flag flown for my dad means everything to me,” she said. “The flag represents our country’s unity and everything we’ve been through. It represents the spirit of the people who fought and died for us, and for generations to come.”

Shelley VanCour said she went on an Honor Flight with her father to Washington, D.C., a trip that changed her life. She shared how difficult it had been for her father to share his war experience, which included piloting an LCM troop transport boat that brought the front lines ashore amid withering fire at Inchon, in what is now South Korea. A special moment on the visit was meeting a Marine who was one of the many he and others brought to shore.

“My dad was a very humble man, as all our veterans are humble,” said VanCour. “We can never thank them enough. When I came home from that Honor Flight, I was thankful for things I never noticed before. Then again, the Honor Flight did so much for my dad. There is nothing like being immersed with veterans. You hear their stories and how they are brothers and sisters. My dad would have been embarrassed by this, but he deserved it.”

Primarily family members attended the ceremonies, as the American Legion Post 326 canceled its annual parade and encouraged people to stay home as a means of reducing the potential spread of the coronavirus.