Tears of gratitude: Emotional tribute marks Veterans Day

Emotions ran high at this year’s Veterans Day ceremony Sunday afternoon in downtown Milford as several speakers fought tears when they recalled those who fought and died for freedom.

“It was our great veterans who fought many battles in many wars for our freedom, that same freedom that gives some folks the right to kneel during our National Anthem,” Grand Marshal Phil Vetro told the crowd gathered at the downtown gazebo after the Veterans Day Parade. He choked up a bit.

Vetro, chairman of the Milford Board of Aldermen, explained that Veterans Day marks the end of WWI — and is observed on the 11th month, the 11th day at the 11th hour.

He talked about the poppy, the red that represents the blood of those who gave their lives; the black that represents the mourning of those whose loved ones did not return; and the green that represents the grass and crops growing for the future and for hope and prosperity.

Vetro said Veterans Day is a day to recognize not only those who gave their lives for their country but all the men and women who have worn the uniform.

“Roughly only one percent of Americans served in the military,” Vetro said. “Think of the impact those folks who served had on the world, defending freedom and protecting democracy. Winston Churchill once said, ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.”

In honor of that debt, he asked those gathered to do something nice for a veteran, many of whom need assistance.

Vetro joined the Marine Corps in January 1968, “the height of the Vietnam War,” said Tom Flowers, chairman of the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission. Vetro was stationed on Parris Island, S.C., and went to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for advanced infantry training. He was then sent overseas, serving in Okinawa, Japan, in major support of the Vietnam War.

Pastor James Loomer reminded the crowd that it’s been 100 years since the end of WWI; 242 years since the Liberty Bell rang out in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and 155 years since Abraham Lincoln stood in the fields of Gettysburg.

The pastor read from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Ron Palumbo, a Vietnam-era veteran, helped bring Sunday’s event to a close when he sang America the Beautiful, at times choking up as he sang the words. He dedicated the song to his two uncles, Charlie and Nat Crea, who fought in WWII.