At 11 am on this blustery Friday, yellow leaves covered the front lawn of Beacon's Memorial Building on the corner of Main Street and Fishkill Avenue as many people from the community gathered on the sidewalk and in the street of the barricaded block to listen to the ceremony hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 666.
Those gathered included parents of veterans who served or are currently serving in active duty, veterans themselves, and grateful citizen supporters from the community. Girl Scout Troop 10525, led by Christine Galbo, passed out brochures to all in attendance. Master of Ceremonies, Harold G. Delamater, Commander VFW Post 666, opened with a call to order, followed by an opening prayer from Hank J. Barker, American Legion Post 203 Chaplain.
What followed was a therapeutic ceremony of traditions and recollections that most people do not hear often, unless at ballgames or in grade school. The pledge of allegiance was led by Harold G. Delamater, followed by Grace Morea singing the national anthem. Hearing the words outside in the sunshine, the wind blowing around attendees and blowing down flags and speakers on the stage, one could imagine standing in the dark, on a battlefield, alone or with others, ears tuned for any sound of retreat or triumph, just as a soldier of war would listen on any given day of service. The words were written in 1814 by a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, "after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812," according to Wikipedia. The poem, later set to music, wouldn't be declared the United States of America's national anthem until 1931.
O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Delivering the main message of the day was Sgt. Thomas Wohlrab, who served in the U.S. Army from 1965-1968, serving three tours of duty in Vietnam between January 1966 and April 1968. He started by reminding listeners that Veterans Day is a time for honoring the living, as those have witnessed "astonishing events," creating a "period of change" for that person, that may start with darkness for a long time, where eventually "hope replaces doubt." Where physical injury can change life in the blink of an eye, or "wounds not visible" require time to adjust and heal.
Wohlrab emphasized the important role of those surrounding veterans, who can help them heal by listening, hiring, and appreciating. Upon coming home from Vietnam, Wohlrab found it hard to adjust as people advised him not to wear his uniform off of the plane as people were protesting that war. As he walked around, he was struck by others walking around "as if nothing was going on" - two different realities requiring a fast transition.
Today, Wohlrab serves as a volunteer DAV (Disabled American Veteran) claims processor at Castle Point VA Hospital, where he says the volunteer work has saved time and money. He also helps with the DAV's mission of keeping the promise to veterans by aiding them in providing transportation to and from medical appointments, as well as providing assistance to veterans who file claims for medical assistance as well as bringing awareness to other benefits veterans are entitled to.
Make a point this weekend to visit the six wreaths laid in honor of different people, and take a moment to reflect. The Laying of Wreaths honored:
Laying of the Wreaths
Order of the Purple Heart, laid by Anthony Lassiter
VFW Post 666, laid by Jim Scofield, Post 666 Adjutant
American Legion Post 203 and Ladies Auxillary, laid by Commander John McEnroe and Susan McEnroe
Disabled American Veterans, laid by Peter Miller
Marine Corps League Det 861, laid by John Miller
Prisoner of War/Missing in Action, laid by John E. Rembert
Photo Credit: All photos taken by Katie Hellmuth Martin