LAKE GEORGE * As the first bugler began the solemn notes of taps, a second joined him from a distance, causing a slow, lonely echo that squeezed the heart before the sound drifted away into the wilderness at the top of Prospect Mountain.
About 100 people attended Sunday's memorial honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action from all past wars. The event has been sponsored by the Warren County American Legion for the past 38 years.
Driving up the five-mile Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway to the ceremony area seemed to symbolize the long, twisting, difficult climb that a prisoner of war can face before being returned to home and country.
"I was lucky," said 1st Lt. Seymour "Sunny" Segan, an Army Air Corps bombardier whose plane was shot down on June 28, 1944, over Ploesti, Romania. "Seven of our men died. I was held for 2-1/2 months before I was rescued."
Segan, whose left leg was crushed in the plane crash, spent 21 months in an Army hospital and years in various veterans hospitals.
His mother, notified that he was missing in action, had a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
"That's how I ended up in Glens Falls," Segan said. "Mount McGregor prison was originally a tuberculosis hospital, built in 1903, that was purchased by Gov. Dewey and made into a veterans hospital."
Several former prisoners of war were acknowledged by Korean War-era Marine Pfc. Terry Waterston, commander of North Creek American Legion Post No. 629, during the ceremony.
"Prisoners of war truly knew the meaning of freedom," said Waterston. "Their legacy is the gift of liberty."
Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Coon, of the New York Army National Guard, gave the keynote speech, focusing his remarks on how inspired he was to consider the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans - especially when he realized they were putting their lives in jeopardy at the very time he was playing children's games safely at home.
He also discussed soldiers like Sgt. Keith Matthew "Matt" Maupin, currently missing in action in Iraq, and Michael Scott Speicher, who is still missing from the Gulf War.
"I've held the crying mothers and fathers at their happiest and saddest moments," said Coon. "It's far worse to forever wonder about the fate of a loved one."
Before his speech, Coon made reference to the Glens Falls unit of 79 local men and women now serving in Iraq.
"The 466 Area Support Medical Company was deployed in October," said Coon. "They're serving at a mix of bases in southern Iraq, doing medical support, and won't be home at least until October."
Sunday's ceremony included a color guard, the laying of a wreath, and the presentation of a proclamation by William H. Thomas, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, declaring June 3, 2007 to be POW/MIA Day in Warren County.
After the 45-minute ceremony, refreshments and music were provided at Lake George American Legion Post No. 374.
* The POW/MIA flag design is credited to World War II veteran Newt Heisley, working on a design team commissioned by flagmaker Annin & Co., at the prompting of Mary Hoff, whose husband was MIA in Vietnam.
* POW/MIA bracelets, bearing the name and reported missing date of an individual, were created by the group Voices in a Vital America (VIVA) in 1970. They were based on hand-hammered "Montagnard bracelets" worn by returning Vietnam veterans.
* Prospect Mountain State Parkway opened in 1969 as a memorial highway in honor of America's war veterans. The 2,021-foot summit is said to provide a 100-mile view.
* More than 92,000 American military personnel are still listed as Missing In Action in all wars since World War I; 78,750 of those are from World War II.