Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day 2006: "Someone Points a Finger at You and You Go"

Drop Cap Letter: Text of my remarks at today’s Veterans Day ceremony in the Town Hall Auditorium:

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was a story from Zagrit, Iraq, by C. J. Chivers.

It recounted how a group of marines got the news about the resignation on Wednesday of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

An Iraqi watching television who was an involuntary host to a platoon of marines looking for insurgents passed on the news in broken English to the platoon’s sergeant.

“Rumsfeld is gone,” he told the sergeant.

“Rumsfeld is gone?” the sergeant said. “Really?”

The Iraqi nodded. The sergeant went upstairs, the Times correspondent wrote, and he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor, “Rumsfeld’s out.”

The Times report went on: Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. “Who’s Rumsfeld?” he asked.

Politics and politicians are not of great interest to many of our young men and women serving in the military. They have but one mission—to serve their country.

And to stay alive.

Later in the story, the correspondent told of meeting Lance Cpl. Patrick S. Macguire. His grandfather fought at Iwo Jima.. His father was a marine in Vietnam. This was his second tour in Iraq.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Someone points a finger at you, and you go.”

And so it has been for decades for those in our military.  Someone points a finger at you and you go.

They have gone from Westport in wars back to the Civil War. And they have gone most recently to Afghanistan and to Iraq.

Westport has been fortunate in that our town has not suffered any recent direct war casualties.

But back in 2003, Connecticut’s first casualty in the Iraq War was the son-in-law of Westporter Jay Paretzky, who at the time was president of our volunteer ambulance service.

Master Staff Sgt. Phillip Jordan, 42, and eight other marines were killed in an ambush.

Jordan and his wife Amanda had visited Westport regularly with their then 6-year-old son Tyler.

Others from Westport have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fortunately, they returned home safely.

But many who served in other wars did not. Some of their colleagues are with us today in this auditorium.

“Someone points a finger at you and you go,” said the marine in Iraq.

We are grateful for those who have gone without question when asked…from Westport and from all across America.

Today it is our honor to honor them, express our gratitude, and, as a community, once again to say “thank you.”