'They've earned it'; Milford honors veterans with ceremony

MILFORD — Veterans should not just be honored with speeches and rhetoric, but in deeds and action, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Sunday in Milford.

“With healthcare and education and jobs and skills training. They deserve it. They’ve earned it,”Blumenthal said in front of Milford City Hall at a Veterans Day ceremony.

The two-hour ceremony was hosted by the Veterans Ceremony and Parade Commission and was live-streamed on YouTube. Members of the Milford Concert Band performed for the first hour of the program.

Traditionally, Milford has a Veterans Day parade. That was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of the pandemic, Blumenthal said it’s important at this time to honor all first responders along with those who are serving or have served their country.

“Despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, we know this year is full of unprecedented challenges that test us. They test our values and our commitment to the very ideals that men and women in uniform have fought time after time to uphold,” Blumenthal said.

“While we salute our military men and women today, let us never forget in this time of pandemic the extraordinary service of others in uniform, like our police and firefighters and first responders who have been out there reporting for duty day after day, despite the threats to their well-being from this pandemic,” the senator said.

There’s a smaller number of veterans or those who are serving the country now than in years past, according to Blumenthal.

“Less than one percent of our nation has any family member or any direct experience with military service, and we owe them more than ever because they keep us free in a more and more dangerous world,” he said.

Milford Mayor Ben Blake paid tribute to everyone who fought to “make the nation’s freedoms today possible.” He also brought up Election Day, saying there’s a strong correlation between it and Veterans Day.

“Election Day is a day that we reaffirm our faith in our democracy, our democratic republic,” said Blake. The added that the right to vote is “tmost fundamental right that protects and supports all of the other rights that we as a democracy hold dear.”

When celebrating Veterans Day, Blake said the nation’s military victories weren’t necessarily what was being celebrated. Rather, the celebration was for the people that made those victories possible.

“They believed in and fought for a set of ideals,” he said.. Our nation still stands, our founding principles still shine, and our kids still enjoy the many blessings of freedom and liberty.”

Also at the ceremony was New Hampshire resident Craig Lougee, whose grandfather Raymond Wesley Hayden was a Milford resident and World War I veteran. Hayden’s name is engraved on the Milford World War I monument in front of City Hall.

During the ceremony, Milford officials flew the flag that draped Hayden’s casket when he was buried with full military honors. With traffic stopped in front of City Hall, a Marine Color Guard folded the flag and presented it back to Lougee.

“A time of triumph”

Brigadier Gen. Ralph Hedenberg, director of the joint staff, CT Army National Guard, said on Veterans Day, veterans should be acknowledged from all the nation’s wars: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The veterans who fought in those wars all “shared the same blood, the same sacrifice,” Hedenberg said.

While Memorial Day is a time of “somber silence,” Veteran’s Day is “a time of triumph. It is a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation, generations of them, who above all else, believed in and fought for a set of ideals,” Hedenberg said.

“Our soldiers are the heart, the soul and the spirit of the greatest nation on this planet. Our service members today carry on the proud legacy and traditions of all our nation’s veterans who have throughout our history kept us free. Today we say thanks to them.”