Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Memorial Day Remarks

(Remarks prepared for delivery to Memorial Day ceremony, Veterans Green, Westport, on May 28, 2012)

Thank you Bill Vornkahl, for your decades of devoted service to your country and to Westport. This is Bill’s 42nd Memorial Day parade that he has organized. And he’s been participating for 57 years. What a record.

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

I’m heartened to see so many people out watching the parade and participating in it. Over the years, it’s come to be known as the Westport parade with more people marching than watching. But that’s a good thing.

We are delighted to have Buck Iannacone as the grand marshal this year. Buck is a World War II veteran who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Battle Star during his service. And since then he has been active in numerous Westport charities, especially the Police Athletic League.

Memorial Day in modern times has come to mean the unofficial beginning of summer, getting together with families, perhaps having a barbeque or two. But it is important to remember the real reason for Memorial Day – to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Look around this Veterans Green and you will see some of their names engraved in bronze plaques. Some family names will be familiar to longtime Westporters.

Memorial Day is also a time to pay tribute to those men and women who continue to serve our country in far off lands. It is because of them and those who have gone before that we are able to enjoy the freedom we have today.

I think it is also a time to remember those who may not have served in the military but who meant so much to Westport over the years.

Understanding the danger of naming some names and not others, there are some whose passing since the last Memorial Day are especially noteworthy.

One of them was Manny Magolis, who lived with his wife Estelle just down the street on Myrtle Avenue for many years. Not only was Manny a Purple Heart World War II veteran, he and his wife for many years took part in a peace vigil on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge in Westport’s center.

Also a tremendous loss was my good friend Gavin Anderson. Gavin, who did his military service in the British Royal Navy, delighted in this event and many others in Westport. We sorely miss him.

We lost B.V Brooks, who served in the Merchant Marine, former Police Chief Bill Stefan, Yukutiel Kuti Zeevi, who served in the Israeli military, Westport farmer James Belta, former Selectman Bill Veazie Jr., and noted architect Abe Rothenberg.

We lost Carol Bieling and then Junior Bieling. Also J. Lynn Helms, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy before later becoming federal aviation chief under President Ronald Reagan.

We lost John Arcudi, a native Westporter who was the German and Italian interpreter for Gen. George Patton during World War II.

We lost one of our oldest Westporters – Helen Faith Keene Reichert, who was 109. And we lost two teens well before their time – Tess Meisel and Bradley Helt.

So on this day, we remember them and all the others who have served their country and our town in so many ways.

Finally, as I have urged you in the past, when you see a man or woman in military uniform – currently serving or a veteran – go up to them and tell them “thank you.” It will make their day and surely yours.

Thank you for coming to this Memorial Day and I wish you a safe and healthy holiday. Thank you very much.