The Ninth District Veterans Association held their Annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Sunday.
The parade moved down Glenville Street from Walker Court to the Glenville Fire Station where there was a wreath-laying ceremony and remarks from elected officials including US Senator Richard Blumenthal, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, State Senator Ryan Fazio (R-36) and State Rep Rachel Khanna (D-149).
James Heavey, who is an Army ROTC Second Lieutenant, was introduced by his father Police Dept Chief Jim Heavey. He spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day.
“While we are grateful for for our members of the military, their service and presence in the community, today is not the day to recognize veterans or current service members,” Heavey said. “This Memorial Day we pause remember more than one million Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice since the founding of our nation. Remember their courage. Remember their selfless service. Remember how they lived and remember and the values they embody.”
He noted that 2023 marked the 50th since the end of the Vietnam War.
Heavey noted that 58,220 US service men and women lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
“It is most fitting that those lost in that war, their families, and those who have returned recently be more properly recognized. Greenwich lost 24 servicemen in that Vietnam War. In fact, hundreds of brave Greenwich residents have given their lives in nearly every US conflict since the Revolutionary War.”
“For the families of the fallen we are here to remember that for them, every day is Memorial Day. Today we collectively renew our vows to always remember the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who paid in blood for the freedoms we enjoy every day.”
Ninth District Veterans members, who marched in the parade, also have a color guard who did a gun salute during the ceremony.
There was a good turnout and all the veterans present were asked to raise their hands.
Senator Blumenthal said while Memorial Day is associated with family gatherings and barbeques, the holiday’s true meaning was personal to those gathered in Glenville.
He said while people talk about celebrating the holiday and wishing each other Happy Memorial Day, the day was not a happy occasion, but rather a day organized by veterans to remember the patriotism and dedication of those who gave their lives.
“I often think the best way to honor the fallen is to honor the living,” he continued. “And honor them not just with words, but with action. A lot of the men and women who come back from combat today will lose their lives to diseases like cancer, thyroid problems, and diabetes as the result of exposure to toxic chemical burn pits on the battle fields, and other kinds of conditions – invisible wounds of war, PTS – they’re heroes too, and they are fallen comrades to everybody who has served.”
“That is why we have moved more aggressively and more effectively to honor our veterans with more action – better healthcare, education, skill training – because we need to keep faith with them as we do today with those who lost their lives so that we can be free here, saying whatever we wish, worshiping as we please,” Blumenthal said. “These freedoms, as they say, are not free. Particularly in a world that is more dangerous than ever, it is more appropriate than ever that we honor the fallen as you do today.”
Blumenthal thanked the organizers for the effort and the turnout.
“What’s really important about being an American is what you are doing today, being here,” he said. “Thank you for this wonderful ceremony.”
State Senator Fazio noted that this year’s Memorial Day fell on two occasions, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War and the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. Fazio cited Abraham Lincoln’s famous address dedicating the battlefield.
“In his address he said that we cannot by our actions as the living, or through our words, fully commemorate or honor those who lost their lives, who gave their full measure of devotion so that this country may live, and yet it is still our somber and solemn responsibility to remember them through ceremonies like this,” Fazio said.
“Passing down the memories of those who lost their lives in defense of our country so that we may be free is vital to the preservation of our great country – equality, justice and liberty for all.”
State Rep Khanna quoted Franklin Roosevelt, who said, “‘Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.’ Today we recognize and honor our veterans sacrifice and service to our country, and keep those soldiers who are deployed defending our freedoms, and their families, in our thoughts and prayers.”
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin said it was important to remember that so many who gave their lives for our country were just teenagers.
“They were 18 or 19 years old. Just think about today’s teenagers and the bravery that those teenagers put forth for our freedom,” she said. “Although we may not know them, we absolutely owe them.”