Veterans Day Parade speakers talk of sacrifice and service

Neither Grand Marshal Aleks Morosky nor Poet Laureate Mick Theebs focused on the glory of war when they spoke after Milford’s Veterans Day Parade Sunday afternoon. Rather, they spoke of the sacrifice of those who serve and have served to preserve freedom in America.

Morosky, the national legislative director for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Washington, D.C., offered the keynote address at the gazebo Sunday afternoon, following a parade that included veterans, local politicians, Scouts, civic organizations and high school bands.

Morosky served in the Army for seven years, first with the 1st Armored Division and then with the 101st Airborne Division. His service was cut short when he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during night patrol in Iraq.

“On Veterans Day, I think most about my friends who served on my left and my right during those times, especially those who never made it home,” Morosky said. “As most veterans will tell you, they are the real heroes.”

After his service, Morosky went to college on the GI Bill, earning a degree in political science. He worked as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s aide, and he moved to Walnut Beach in Milford. Feeling in need of camaraderie here, he visited the VFW Post 7788 hall in Devon. It wasn’t long before VFW members made him junior vice chairman and then senior vice chairman, positions that led him to his career as a veterans advocate in Washington D.C.

“Sometimes, when I find myself testifying at a committee hearing on CSPAN or at a roundtable discussion with Congressional leaders, I have to pinch myself and ask, ‘How did an enlisted infantryman who was digging foxholes, pulling guard duty and going out on combat patrols just a few years ago wind up here? Do I even belong here or has there been some sort of mistake?’

“But the answer to that of course is ‘yes’,” he continued. “I do belong here, because I am speaking on behalf of my fellow veterans. And it is important that our elected officials hear about veterans’ issues from the veteran’s perspective.”

Since he has been in Washington D.C., Morosky said there have been victories, like the passage of the Veterans Choice Act to make it easier for veterans to get the health care they need; and the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act.

“Too many veterans still take their own lives because they don’t get the help they need in time,” Morosky said.

“Too many veterans still go to sleep homeless each night. Too many veterans are still waiting too long for the health care and benefits they need and deserve. And, we still need greater accountability at the VA,” he said. But, Morosky added that he is confident that America will overcome these obstacles.

Theebs’ poem was not drastically different than Morosky’s speech. This was actually the first poem that Milford’s first poet laureate prepared for a city event: He dedicated it to his father, Michael Thibodeau, an Air Force veteran, who stood in the crowd listening.

In his poem, a soldier returns home to a family and community that sees him as a hero, while he struggles with the images of war that he can still see.

“And he stood before them tall and proud,” reads one stanza. “And listened to their cheers so loud, And tried to smile to please the crowd, But could not see through the swirling cloud, of thoughts marauding through his brain un-cowed, the words he would never speak aloud...”

In the poem, the soldier says he is no longer whole, and talks of his nightmares. But he says he is grateful that others have been spared the travesty of war. The poem reads, “I do not feel like a hero. All I feel is gratitude – They have not seen what I have seen. They have not done what I have done. And that is its own reward.”

When the Rev. James Loomer, pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church in Milford, spoke during the post-parade ceremonies, he referenced the late President John F. Kennedy.

Quoting from a speech written by John F. Kennedy but never delivered, Rev. Loomer said, “We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen of the walls of world freedom.”

Click here to read Mick Theeb's complete poem in honor of Veterans Day.