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Memorial Service Offered A Reminder Of What Is Lost And Gained



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Memorial Service Offered A Reminder Of What Is Lost And Gained

By Nancy K. Crevier

As he looked out over the gathering of people outside the Veterans’ of Foreign Wars clubhouse on Monday, May 30, before the start of the Memorial Day Service, Specialist Louis Enriquez, National Guard Connecticut Army, smiled grimly.

“It means a lot of different things to be here today,” said Specialist Enriquez, who returned last November from Afghanistan, where he had served in the squad led by Sergeant Edwin Rivera of Waterbury. Staff Sgt Rivera died May 25, at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., of wounds sustained during an attack at Contingency Outpost, Xio Haq, Afghanistan, five days earlier.

“This really hits home,” he said. “It shows the support of all of those back home.” His attention then turned to the many people who had paused to greet him, before he took his place next to new VFW post Commander Daniel Kearns, retired Army Master Sgt Jim Simpson, outgoing Vice Commander James Rebman, incoming Vice Commander Rich Monckton, and outgoing Post Commander Junie Ingram, awaiting the start of the program.

Welcoming remarks were offered by former VFW Post Commander Don Monckton, expressing his gratitude for the number of those who had turned out “to honor those who have given their most,” before introducing Newtown first selectman Pat Llodra.

“More than 600,000 Americans have given their lives since the Civil War to defend our country,” Mrs Llodra told the solemn crowd. While Memorial Day is traditionally dedicated to those who have died in service to our country, she expressed appreciation to those who continue to “protect our freedom, especially this year, the tenth anniversary of 9/11.” She also addressed the successful mission that ended terrorist Osama Bin Laden’s life, in which no service members were killed, comparing it to the equally brave, but more deadly and not as successful mission in Iran under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. “Thank you,” she said, “to those who keep my grandchildren safe.”

In closing remarks, Mrs Llodra asked that all present, to honor both the living and the dead of the country’s armed forces, stop for a moment of remembrance at 3 pm. “It’s just a small pause,” reminded Mrs Llodra, “to say thank you.”

Continuing the service, former Post Commander Don Monckton asked that those who had served in the military step forward for recognition, and invited anyone who wished, to say aloud the name of any service person “who had made the ultimate sacrifice. Keep in mind,” Commander Monckton said, “that everyone knows someone who did not make it back.”

An employee of a veteran’s hospital, Commander Monckton said he was blessed to have the job that allowed him to spend time with the nation’s veterans, “our most valuable national treasure.” He then shared a story with the audience, of one experience with an aging veteran.

Working the midnight shift, around 3 am, it was discovered that one of the veterans had gone missing. “I found the elderly man, in his hospital gown, sitting on a bench in front of the hospital. He was thin, and frail, and confused, thinking his wife was coming to pick him up. He wanted to go home,” said Commander Monckton. The truth was, though, that the veteran’s wife had died years earlier, and there was no home to which he could return. He had no one. “I sat down and let him talk,” Commander Monckton said, “and he told me of serving in Europe, in World War II. He became very somber and broke down in tears,” he said.

The man was overcome with grief, decades later, that he had survived a battle in which nearly all of his comrades had fallen. “He had been given up for dead, and was in a morgue, when a medic had wanted to pay last respects to all of the men lying there, and heard his moan. He went on to lead a full life, but wondered, why was his life spared?

I considered myself lucky to hear his words,” Commander Monckton said. “I see the power of their words on a daily basis. They know what it is like to lose a comrade, and carry on.”

It is important, Commander Monckton stressed, to remember those who have died not only of physical wounds, but also of mental wounds, in service to the country, and to keep in mind the thousands still Missing In Action. “There are vets at home and alone, too. Parts of them have died, also. They went forth,” he said, “on your behalf.”

The service ended with a tribute to those who have died on foreign soil, the laying of a wreath and flowers near a commemorative headstone, and the playing of “Taps” by outgoing VFW post quartermaster Jim Lewis.

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