CHESTERTOWN - Under rainy skies Saturday evening, friends and family of local fallen soldier Pfc. Jeremiah Monroe gathered in his honor at the Panther Mountain House, sharing both grief and pleasant memories of bygone days.
The family of Monroe organized a balloon release to pay tribute to the local hero's sacrifice, and to remember his character and the affect he had on all of their lives.
"It's been just over a month since we lost Jeremiah and we wanted to do this in remembrance of him," said Monroe's cousin Nikki Monroe.
When living at home, Monroe frequented the Panther Mountain House, making it the logical place for people to gather.
"This was his spot," remarked a friend of Monroe's at Saturday's event.
Jeremiah Monroe, 31, was killed Sept. 17 while on patrol duty in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He had attended North Warren Central School and was laid to rest on Sept. 29 at Underwood Cemetery in Adirondack after a funeral procession - 300 vehicles long - from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Chestertown.
Hundreds of people from near and far had stood roadside in his memory - to pay solemn tribute to the first local soldier who had been killed in combat since the Korean War. Saturday's memorial balloon ceremony was primarily somber, but those who gathered stressed that the event was to show their love, to raise their glasses and to celebrate the life of Pfc. Monroe.
As the sky darkened, the crowd gathered outside with balloons in hand to honor their friend. To each balloon, they attached cards reading, "In memory of Jeremiah 'Miah' Monroe." Personal photos and notes were also added before the release.
Guests of honor included Pfc. Monroe's mother Delores Monroe and his daughter Delilah Rose. They released special bouquets of balloons that drifted upwards and disappeared into the near-dark evening sky.
"We hope to continue this evening as an annual benefit to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project as well as other organizations," Nikki Monroe said.
Loved ones of Pfc. Monroe are inspired to not only honor him, they are dedicated to the continued support of all soldiers and their families, she said.