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   Veterans' Day 2009-A Day For Name, Rank, And Recognition



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   Veterans’ Day 2009—

A Day For Name, Rank, And Recognition

By Kendra Bobowick & Eliza Hallabeck

“Tell them simply, thank you,” said Don Monckton, past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 308. “Let us thank the soldiers in line at the checkout or the older veterans from World War II standing along the parade route,” he said. “Tell them you are grateful for their service.”

Minutes before the 11 am services began, bus drivers Nancy Crofoot and Denise Buckley opened their vehicle doors to spill clusters of eighth-grade Newtown Middle School students who soon learned about their neighbors’ trials in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Vietnam, or whatever soil carried our veteran servicemembers into conflict and war. Watching as the town’s veterans stood to face a gathering audience, student Joe Topolski spoke: “They should have more than one day, they should be honored all the time.” Noting the importance of recognizing “all the people who have served now and in the past,” Nick Marcinek agreed with his friend. With them was student Dion Vega, who added: “This is a day to think of what people did for this country.” Recently returning from a wake for one soldier he knew, student Sean Donnelly said, “You never know what it’s like until it hits you.”

Teachers Danelle Egan, Jason Adams, and Bonnie Hart, Principal Diane Sherlock, and organizer Andrew SanAngelo stood with their classes and soon an instrumental version of the national anthem quieted the crowd’s voice, covered traffic noise, and briefly became the only sound breaking the late morning.

Soon students’ understanding of the word veteran was personalized. They were introduced to Air Force Captain Ted Selken who flew B-52s, First Selectman and veteran Joe Borst, Specialist 4th Class Peter Sturges who joined the Army in 1970, Sergeant Carl Bergquist of the 119th Military Police Working Dog Detachment who began his career in the service in 2004, Sergeant Thomas Monckton who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, arrived home in 2007, and again awaits deployment this weekend.

With another deployment imminent, he said, “I am proud to be here and am just enjoying my last few days …” He hopes to be back home again by next Veterans’ Day.

Thomas’s brother Richard Monckton enlisted in the state’s National Guard in 2000 and in following years would be deployed to Iraq and later Afghanistan. He is now a Newtown police officer. Brothers Thomas, Daniel, and Richard and their father Don Monckton are all members of VFW Post 308.

Also introduced Wednesday morning were Chief Petty Officer Daniel Kearns whose career with the Navy began in 1978, was honorably discharged in 1984, reenlisted in 2003, and was deployed to Iraq in 2007. Master Sergeant James Rebman’s military career began in 1983 and in 1986 he served on a Fast Attack Submarine and was released from the Navy in 1988, was honorably discharged a year later, then reenlisted in 1995 and was twice deployed to the Middle East.

Master Sergeant John Velky enlisted in the Air Force in 1984 and joined the active reserves four years later; he was recalled to active duty in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm, and was again activated in 2001.

Following the ceremonies, student Otto Kerler admitted that he had time during the morning to consider who the veterans are and where they had gone to serve. Enea Musaka’s opinions changed after he saw Newtown’s veterans in their dress uniforms, heard their histories of service. As his class edged toward the buses to return to school, he looked again toward the flag and podium where Don Monckton had stood. “They actually fought in wars,” he said.

Moments before he and others gathered had heard Mr Monckton say, “They’re willing to fight and die for our freedom so we can enjoy life; it’s a day to honor those who have sacrificed.” He told the veterans, residents, students, and friends listening, “Today, we preserve the memory of those men and women who have throughout history defended our country.”

He said: “Wherever the blood of a comrade lies, the ground is hallowed, they have made us their debtors.” One at a time, beginning with Senior Vice Commander William Farley, the veterans introduced to the crowd stepped toward a small field of flags — roughly 100 — placed there by Deb Sturges. Anyone who knows a veteran past or present, living or deceased had a chance to purchase a flag. Proceeds support soldiers overseas.

Also recognized for their gesture of support Wednesday were two young residents who had asked their mother Liz Kneen to explain the artificial VFW poppies. Why were veterans selling poppies? Ms Kneen told them money from sales helped the soldiers. (Poppies figure prominently in a famous 1915 poem about war, “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae.) Brother and sister William and Cora soon made their own collection and gave a check to the VFW commander. “Your efforts are an inspiration,” Mr Monckton told them this week. The eighth-graders also arrived with boxes of contributions for our servicemembers currently at war.

Leaving his audience with a thought, Mr Monckton recalled Abraham Lincoln’s words, “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not endure.” And less than an hour later, Men’s Auxiliary members Rick Shuttleworth, President Rob Arnold, Sr Vice President Chris Paquin, Tim Werden, and Vice President Dennie Dyess visited Masonicare of Newtown and saluted veterans there. Visiting the nurses, officers, and soldiers living in the senior facility, the auxiliary members raised their hands to their foreheads and thanked them for their service and left them with gifts, including shirts, to commemorate their efforts.


Veterans’ Day

In The School

Throughout town Wednesday were tributes in halls, classrooms, and cafeterias, and auditoriums of Newtown’s schools. Across town students found themselves waking for a school day for the first time on Veterans’ Day in the school district. Each of the public schools in the district recognized the day in a different way.

At Head O’ Meadow a wall in the cafetorium was covered with “Our Veterans,” profiles of veterans put together by students in the school. A “Wall of Heroes” was also set up at Reed Intermediate School, and at Hawley School some students found themselves pointing to cards for which they had submitted information.

Hawley student Olivia Brosnan, accompanied by her mother, Andrea Brosnan, and her grandfather, Nicholas P. Fatse, pointed out Mr Fatse’s card on the wall of profiles of veterans. Olivia’s other grandfather, Frank Brosnan, was also featured on the wall.

For Hawley students, the celebration of Veterans’ Day started with a schoolwide assembly, which included a slide-show of submitted photos by the students of veterans. After the assembly the visiting veterans followed students to their classrooms, then on to the school’s multipurpose room where a buffet-style breakfast was served. Students at Hawley also learned how to fold the American flag from Newtown resident and Air Force member Renee Marino.

Just two streets over at the Newtown Middle School, another buffet-style breakfast for veterans was set up in the cafeteria. Students from Cluster 7 Red had brought in flowers for decorations, bagels and muffins for food, and more, to welcome visiting veterans like World War II veteran Walter Dulko, who served with the Air Force. Mr Dulko ate breakfast on Wednesday with his granddaughter, Bridget O’Donnell, and other students from Cluster 7 Red.

A third breakfast for veterans was served at Sandy Hook School on Wednesday morning after a flag raising ceremony, introduced by Sandy Hook School Assistant Principal Barbara Gasparine. Newtown resident Donna Monteleone Randle, who served with the US Army Signal Corp, raised the flag while Newtown High School senior Nahba Bropleh played the trumpet.

Navy Pilot and Commander William McNerney was the guest speaker for the morning at Sandy Hook School.

Newtown High School had roughly 50 veterans attending the schools fifth annual Veterans’ Day luncheon and ceremony, which featured performances by the 102nd National Guard Army Band.

NHS Assistant Principal Scott Clayton acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, and introduced each of the ceremony’s speakers and performers. Newtown High School student Hannah DeFlumeri sang “God Bless America,” accompanied by the NHS Concert Band and the 102nd National Guard Army Band. NHS student Andrew Nichols sang his version of Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” also accompanied by the NHS Concert Band and 102nd National Guard Army Band.

Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson spoke during the ceremony and thanked each of the veterans in attendance for coming to the ceremony.

“I am humbled to be here in front of all these years of sacrifice,” Dr Robinson said. She added she is the daughter of a Navy career pilot and her husband was also a Navy pilot.

NHS guest speaker United States Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Chris Hogan spoke regarding the idea of service to the county.

“When the 9/11 attacks took place,” said Mr Clayton when introducing Mr Hogan, “[Mr Hogan] was living in London, England. He was called up for service with the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade Airborne, and deployed to Afghanistan as a senior interrogator for the 3rd Intelligence Task Force serving the 3rd US Marine Expeditionary Force.”

Mr Clayton said Mr Hogan’s team helped assemble the facts of Al Qaeda’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

At the time of joining, Mr Hogan said he thinks only ten percent of the reason behind joining the armed forces was selfless. He explained to students that by his second time with the army he had began to believe in the things larger than himself.

To see more photos and video from Veterans’ Day in Newtown go to www.newtownbee.com.

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