Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 Remarks

Drop Cap Letter: Thank you Bill Vornkahl.

Thank you Bill Vornkahl, 40 times over. For that’s how long Bill has been organizing these parades. And he’s participated for 55 years.

Bill served in the Army Signal Corps from 1952 to 1954. We are deeply indebted to you for this parade, the others you organize annually, and for our Veterans Day commemorations.

Once again we are gathered to pay tribute to those who fought for our country in many wars, too many wars.

This year we mark Westport’s 175th birthday. In that time we have seen major wars in which Westporters participated…ranging from the Civil War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We pay tribute to them here on Veterans Green and soon we will pay tribute to them through a statewide memorial.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has announced that a design has been approved for the new monument at Rocky Hill across from the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

It is symbolic of our times that this memorial will be paid for through private contributions.  An aggressive effort to raise the roughly $1 million to $1.2 million needed to construct the memorial is under way.

It is hoped that construction can begin by Veterans’ Day. I urge all Westporters to participate in this worthy project.

As they do so, I hope they will reflect on those who continue to serve us in uniform. Yes, some of them are Westporters…or those with Westport ties.

We don’t know who they all are. But we do know some of them.

We do know they include two members of the Westport Fire Department. Lt. Thomas Richmond is in Iraq as an Army medic, and Firefighter Nicholas Marsan is in Afghanistan in the Infantry.

We know Staples grad Greg Jacobs is in Afghanistan, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, 2nd Marines. He had two previous deployments to Iraq.

We know that Jonathan Liba, a 1987 Staples grad, is in Afghanistan where he serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.

We know fellow Staples grad Calvin Wauchope is back from Afghanistan where he also served in the Marines as a sergeant.

We know that Sam Goodgame, a 2007 Staples grad, is a third year cadet at West Point. He undoubtedly will see action in the future.

So don’t just think the wars we fight today are far off and don’t touch Westport. They do. Intensely. Please remember them. Please thank them in whatever ways you can.

It is fitting that this year for the first time we honor a father and son pair of grand marshals – George Marks Sr. and George Marks Jr.

They served our country in military uniforms and in the uniforms of the Westport Police Department.

We are deeply indebted for their service abroad—and especially at home.

I would be remiss if I did not note the passing of our last year’s grand marshal, Ed See.

Ed, a longtime Westport attorney who served as Town Attorney and a member of the Representative Town Meeting, was 93.

As you may recall, last year was the second time Ed served as our Memorial Day parade grand marshal. The first was in 1946.

Also in the past year, we lost another former grand marshal, Jean Plasan. She served in World War II as nurse in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

These are tough times for our country, for our state, and yes, even for Westport.

But no matter how rough the going gets for us, we should never forget that whatever we do, it is because of those who were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

So on this Memorial Day 2010, I say Happy 175th Birthday Westport….and together let us thank those who have paid the ultimate price and continue to put their lives on the line so we can be here to celebrate.

Thank you very much.