Oneonta Police Officer Sara Lottridge seen marching alongside a riderless horse in honor of Christopher Robert Eramo. (Photo by Joel J. Plue)
By JOEL J PLUE
On Memorial Day, May 29, Oneontans gathered outside Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center at 9 a.m. for a parade in honor of our nation’s heroes and local fallen soldier Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo. Hundreds of enthusiastic community members, businesses, military personnel, local clubs, and politicians cheered and applauded as the parade progressed from Foothills to Main Street and, eventually, to Neahwa Park for the ceremony at 11.
“This noteworthy event could not have been possible without the generous contributions of sponsors such as Tom Armao, Country Club Auto, Ben Guenther, Five Star Subaru, The Hampton Inn Oneonta, ISD Computers and Jordan Phillippe,” said David Hayes, parade event coordinator.
Once gathered at Neahwa Park for the memorial ceremony honoring Eramo, the crowd was welcomed by past American Legion Post 259 Commander Len Carson. Following this came the posting of the colors by the American Legion Post 259 Color Guard, the National Anthem, played by the Oneonta High School Band, then the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer offered by the Reverend Randy Palada.
Amongst the many who spoke, Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek, former Mayor Gary Herzig and the Reverend Sam Judd delivered powerful and meaningful speeches to commemorate Eramo and recognize soldiers everywhere.
Mayor Drnek said, “Memorial Day, today, is our annual one-day remembrance of that sacrifice. But the smile, the warmth, the story of the beloved but fallen soldier is a memory to be shared every day.”
After a number of community officials addressed the crowd, Eramo was honored with a six-rifle salute. Rev. Judd offered a compassionate eulogy, praising and remembering the local hero. When the ceremony ended, attendees left with a sense of grief and pride, and a reminder that Christopher Eramo—and indeed all fallen soldiers—will continue to be remembered forever.
Eramo died on April 27 of this year when two U.S. Army helicopters collided in Alaska, killing him and two other soldiers. The two AH-64 Apache helicopters were returning to Fort Wainwright from an aerial gunnery range southeast of Fairbanks when they collided.
Eramo served his country honorably for more than 18 years, including tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. He received nine Army Commendations Medals, six Army Achievement Medals, the Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Citation, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Medal. He was 39.