On Veterans Day, the town gathered in force for the annual community walk down Greenwich Avenue to honor veterans.
At about 11:00am on Friday, Bruce Winningham of the Greenwich Military Covenant of Care welcomed veterans and the crowd supporting them for a ceremony by the war monument in front of the Havemeyer building.
Winningham said that in the current war, every wounded military man and woman is hurried first to a field surgical medical unit, and from there they are hurried to a location in Europe before being flown to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda.
“Every hospital has an expertise. But there is really only one in the world whose expertise is battlefield injuries,” Winningham said, adding that there is nothing to compare to what shrapnel and bullets do to a human body when they rip through a human body.
Featured speaker US Army Captain James Dudley (Ret), said he’d never been to Connecticut before Friday. He started his comments by observing that everything in the news lately looked pretty grim.
“But I’ve got to say, the Republic is just fine and it will be fine. We are the nation that beat Fascism in Europe. We beat Fascism in Asia. We beat the Communist. There is no election, presidential or otherwise, that is going to undo it,” he said, adding that he was grateful to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
“They do an amazing thing. They come in and stand in the lobby and hand out gift cards and letters from schools, clubs and charities. More importantly, they shake hands, and it’s a way of saying, ‘We didn’t forget you all are here.'”
Capt. Dudley said that after high school he was eager to join the war in Iraq. He waited until after college, and was sent to central Afghanistan’s most remote outpost.
“We were told, there’s a town with a large market, with a small school and a women’s clinic, and it’s the epicenter of attacks from the enemy. On April 28, 2011, I was given a mission to go out and find these people who were launching rockets into this market place. While I was out there we found the enemy, or the enemy found us,” Capt. Dudley said. “There were many more of them than us. A little fight happened in the middle of nowhere. Of the eight men there, four of us were shot very quickly.”
“I got to see the very finest of American love when my squad leader took bullets when he put himself between the enemy and his men. So, helicopters come to pick us up, they scoop you off. They save who they can, and you wake up in a place called Walter Reed.”
Capt. Dudley said Walter Reed had a reputation it earned for itself a long time ago when the care wasn’t so good, and people didn’t come to visit and they were overwhelmed.
“When it was made clear that more was expected, and that more had been earned on the battlefield, the Dept of Defense did everything they could to take care of everyone who got back. It’s a beautiful, magical place, where people survive wounds they never would have in any other war.”
Erf Porter explained that since 1934, the American Legion has picked outstanding young citizen leaders from high school and given them an opportunity form their own state government and go to Boys or Girls Nation to apply what they learned in their high schools and communities.
“Remember, the youth of our nation is our future,” he said. “Youth makes America vital.”
State Rep Livvy Floren said America is going through a very uncertain period in its history, giving all the more reason to pay tribute to those who make a difference for the better in our world.
“Each Veterans Day it is our tradition to recognize young leaders who understand what Democracy means and what sacrifices were made to ensure our enduring freedom,” Floren said.
Floren introduced Liz Murray and Aaron Jaffe. “They represent everything great about Greenwich, Connecticut and America. They are products of our excellent public schools. They are academic superstars. They are respectful, energetic, patriotic and civic minded.”
Aaron drew tremendous applause after describing his time at Connecticut Boys State and Boys Nation.
“Boys Nation’s motto is ‘A week that changes a lifetime,’ and that could not be more true, not only because it furthered my interest in pursuing a position in public service, but because it helped change my view of our nation and of the world,” he said.
Aaron described the 97 young men at Boys Nation as his brothers.
“We didn’t always agree,” he said. “We often fought, and fought hard. We threw the full force of our hearts and our minds against each other. But despite all the facts and figures and rhetoric thrown around, we remained brothers. We ate together, laughed together and on the final Friday night of our closing ceremony, we all cried together.”
Aaron said that his experience at Boys Nation last summer was the purest form of a respectful democracy.
“Our legislature held men of different races, religions, sexual orientations and political ideologies from every corner of our great nation, but not for a second did one of us forget the binding identity that brought us together.” – Aaron Jaffe
“The modern political forces that pit US Senators against each other didn’t exist at Boys Nation,” Aaron said. “The prejudices that prevent compromise and breed polarization weren’t there. The only thing there was our responsibility to ourselves, our states, our country, and even more importantly, to each other.”
Aaron said the American Legion Boys State and Boys Nation programs are phenomenal not only because they educate young men but because develop in the next generation of Americans a bond of trust and tolerance that doesn’t existing the modern political landscape.
“I hold my head up high for the future of the American democracy because no matter how much I may agree or disagree with any one particular policy or proposal, I witnessed first hand that my generation will work together to improve our nation.”