WAYLAND — A fallen hero’s legacy is never forgotten; it lives on in the hearts of all who loved them and fought beside them.
Sgt. Devin Snyder was killed-in-action on June 4, 2011 in Afghanistan. She dedicated her short life to making her community feel loved and special. None of them will ever forget it. This ride is their way of saying ‘thank you.’
Sgt. Devin Snyder is laid to rest at the Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery in Cohocton.
On June 3 Main Street was flooded with people pouring into the Wayland American Legion to pay their respects. The ride is always a huge event for veterans who want to honor a fellow soldier.
“The Faces of the Fallen” project has been a passion of Dineen Snyder, Devin’s mom for awhile now, and she finally is seeing it come to light.
“Faces of the Fallen is a way to honor those who have passed,” she said. “We want people to understand there is a purpose. They are no longer just a name on a wall or on a gravestone. We want people to see what they looked like, and read their story.”
“When you just see a name on the wall or a grave you don’t know what they look like, or what they did for their country,” Snyder continued. “They all had a story. They were someone’s family. We want to know what they look like, and what happened to them. We want people to know them 50 years from now when we are no longer around. They will all be encased in museum glass and kept safe.”
Sgt. Devin Snyder and Lcpl. Zachary Smith are the first “Faces of the Fallen.” The Wayland American Legion is working on four others for next year’s ride; WWII US Navy Capt. Charles Bernard McCallister, of Hornell, MIA on Sept. 7,1943, Vietnam War US Army Sp4. Russell Clair Mann, of Cohocton, KIA, July 3, 1971, Vietnam War US Army Pfc. William Paul Smith, of Wayland, KIA, Jan. 10, 1968, WWI US Marine Corps Pvt. Theodore Roosevelt Van Tassell, of Wayland, KIA, Jan. 13, 1918.
Edward Snyder, Devin’s father, said he always hopes for a great turnout every year.
“I like the tribute every year,” he said. “It always gets bigger and better. Our first purchase was the K-9 Devin. We pay for his training and vet bills every year.”
Also new this year is a sponsorship to the Priscilla House of Rochester. It helps female veterans who are homeless find shelter and care.
“The Priscilla House is the first of its kind,” Dineen Snyder said. “There are a lot of homeless female veterans, and some of them have kids. They already had all of this tragedy, and then they get left out on the streets. This place helps with shelter and care.”
Dineen Snyder added she loves having the soldiers who fought with Devin come every year.
“I love having them come,” she said. “They never forget her. She will always be their family, and live on in their hearts. I really appreciate everyone coming out for this. ”
Some volunteers at the event remember Devin as a friend to their own children.
“My kids grew up with Dineen’s kids, and they played sports together” Sue May said. “I have been helping out for three years now. This is my way of keeping her memory going. We want to keep Devin alive. I will continue to help as long as I can. This is a beautiful thing for our community.”
“Dineen and I work together and we are all very passionate about it,” Anne Austin said. “Devin and my daughter were friends. Devin could light up a room with her smile, and everyone loved her. It amazes me how we continue to keep Devin’s spirit alive every year. She would have been proud of this.”
Wayland American Legion Women’s Auxiliary President Rochelle Sulli said her children graduated with Devin and her siblings.
“Devin is our hometown girl, and we want to honor her,” she said. “It is very nice that active duty soldiers are at her graveside for this, and the ride slows down by her grave to honor her.”
Wayland-Cohocton coach Jeff Englert new Devin Snyder as a great soccer player and very fast on the track.
“This ride is about helping other people, and acknowledging them not only in military, but in law enforcement too,” he said. “Our foundation sheds light on veterans and all we have lost. The loss of Devin hurts. That feeling will never go away, but her spirit comes out on this day every year. It is a great way to get her message out there. We are here to celebrate the life of Devin.”
Wayland American Legion Post Commander Kevin Mark said that this event not only keeps Devin’s memory alive, but all of the veterans.
“We are recognizing what people from all over these small communities are doing, and the sacrifice they make for our country,” he said. “This ride means we are taking a stand for what the military does. I like adding Faces of the Fallen this year. It makes people aware of the sacrifice.”
Mark said he wants to invite other legions to do honor their fallen the same way.
“Faces of the Fallen will help people realize were these soldiers of the past came from, and what they meant to their communities,” he said. “We want people from the past who have died in combat.”
The legion itself is named after one of these Faces of the Fallen; Pvt. Theodore Roosevelt Van Tassell, who was killed-in-action during WWI in France. This famous hero’s grave is still in France. However, some members of the community took dirt from his grave, and placed it at the cornerstone of the legion in 1922.
“The Wayland Legion family loves to support this cause,” Mark said.
Alyssa Englert, Jeff’s daughter, was Devin’s very best friend in school. She helped bring Devin’s body home from the airport.
“She was two years older than me,” she said. “She was my mentor in soccer and track. We had a good relationship that came out of her being my mentor and a great leader. I knew I wanted to get into helping people, and Devin wanted to help people too. This is a great memorial we do to honor her. She meant so much to this community.”
Englert said she would like to do the ride next year, but has always enjoyed helping out at the event.
“I never miss this. I always stop by at her grave on my way her, and on my way back home to Connecticut,” she said. “I love coming home for this every year. It is a small thing the community can do for someone who had a heart so big.”
K-9 Sheriff Tom Nybeck Jr. has the honor of working with and caring for K-9 Devin since October.
“He is an awesome dog,” he said. “We made sure we are nationally certified.”
Nybeck said the event is something he has been looking forward too.
“This is for a great cause, and it is good to bring him her for Devin’s memory,” he said. “He is like one of my kids. I have gone on a lot of missions with him. He is great with kids too. We go out almost daily.”
Sgt. Devin A. Snyder is buried under the shelter of a Crimson King, and gets visitors all year leaving behind things that mean so much at the graveside of this fallen warrior. If you take a trip down you will see it is very clear how much she is loved, and what her story means to the community.