Clear skies and a cool breeze greeted the dozens of residents and students from Newtown Middle School attending the Veterans’ Day ceremony, Monday, November 11, at the VFW Post 308 property on Tinkerfield Road.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem sung by Jennifer Clark, and a benediction, VFW Post Commander James Rebman stepped up to the podium and thanked the “patriotic citizens and students” in attendance. He noted that the benefits of Newtown children attending school on Veterans’ Day meant that they were learning more “about veterans and what we did,” than if they had the day off of school.
Veterans’ Day honors all who protect this nation, said Commander Rebman, which is only one percent of the American population. “As veterans,” he said, “we’ve taken an oath to be defenders of our Constitution.”
Board of Selectmen representative James Gaston, Sr, keynote speaker, shared his thoughts on Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day occurred November 11, 1918, he reminded those present, and it was in 1954 that the name was changed to Veterans’ Day.
“It is good and it is right,” said Mr Gaston, “that we do this to honor our veterans.” Veterans serve 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, at the beck and call of democracy, he said, “And we set aside just one day, to honor them.” It is up to every American to let every veteran know that his or her service to country is appreciated by all, Mr Gaston said.
There are millions of living veterans who expound the principals of loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, respect, self service, and personal courage, Mr Gaston said, “The very basis for which all of us pledge our allegiance to the flag.” Veterans come from all walks of life, he observed, telling those veterans present that the common substance “of what you do… who you are... is such that all citizens should stand in awe of all veterans have done for the country.”
As a civilian, Mr Gaston said that he recently reached out to his 94-year-old father, a World War II veteran, seeking the answer to what he could possibly say to the seasoned veterans he would be addressing on Veterans’ Day. “Say thank you,” was his father’s advice, and so, Mr Gaston thanked the veterans at the VFW Veterans’ Day ceremony, and thanked the families of servicemen and women, as well.
As veterans stood and introduced themselves, Commander Rebman noted the vast diversity of people who have served. “Americans across the nation are gathering today to pay honor to veterans,” he said. “Life today would be vastly different without the sacrifices of veterans,” he reminded the crowd.
Members of the VFW Post 308 participated in the solemn ceremony of laying the wreath and symbolic flowers, followed by a rifle salute, and Taps.
Past Post Commander Brendan D’loughy then presented silver VFW Post 308 Unit Coins to Newtown Middle School 8th grade social studies teacher Andrew San Angelo, and to Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra. The VFW Post 308 Unit Coin was designed by VFW member Brady Miller, and features the VFW insignia on one side, and the town rooster on the other. The silver coins are presented “to a select few non Veteran/VFW VIPs who have personally impacted Post # 308 in a positive way,” according to the VFW Post 308 website.
Mr San Angelo was selected for attending the VFW Veterans’ Day ceremony with his eighth grade social studies classes, every year since Newtown Public Schools have had school in session on that day. Mrs Llodra “is always there for us,” said Commander Rebman, in awarding her the silver Unit Coin.
Mrs Llodra offered brief comments, before the program concluded.
“I want to thank this VFW for providing a place for all our vets to go, for camaraderie,” she said, and thanked the community “for validating our veterans. I’m proud of that.” She concluded by saying that she was “humbled to be in the presence of those who served us.”