With an eye on history, Greenwich marks Independence Day

At the annual Independence Day ceremony at Town Hall, Stefanie Kies, behind podium, led the crowd in the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner as the flag of the original states was raised. She was joined by, from left, committee co-chairs Janet Giusti and Bea Crumbine, master of ceremonies Christopher Hughes, Selectman Drew Marzullo and Selectman David Theis. — Ken Borsuk photo

At the annual Independence Day ceremony at Town Hall, Stefanie Kies, behind podium, led the crowd in the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner as the flag of the original states was raised. She was joined by, from left, committee co-chairs Janet Giusti and Bea Crumbine, master of ceremonies Christopher Hughes, Selectman Drew Marzullo and Selectman David Theis.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Greenwich has well documented ties to the American Revolution, and those links were on display front and center last Thursday at the town’s annual Fourth of July ceremony.

The ceremony was outside Town Hall and featured not only organizers in their best colonial-style wear but also the raising of the 13-star American flag of the original colonies, a parade of flags from those colonies, a memorial salute to Greenwich residents killed during the Revolution and selected readings from the Declaration of Independence by local Boy and Girl Scouts. Members of the Children of the American Revolution, also in outfits befitting the patriotic remembrance of 1776, played a part in the ceremony by leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It is now time to get a little bit serious and a lot patriotic in our thinking,” Bea Crumbine, who began this event 10 years ago, said at the ceremony. “It’s really all about the children of Greenwich. It was 10 years ago that a group of us got together as volunteers to enhance the meaning of Independence Day in the town of Greenwich for the children of Greenwich. It isn’t only about fireworks. It isn’t only about picnics and barbecues. There’s a much bigger picture. What really happened in Greenwich during the Revolutionary War and who were these patriots who defended their families and farms and homes from marauding British soldiers?”

The ceremony was put together, as always, by the Independence Day Association of Greenwich. Ms. Crumbine and Janet Giusti served as co-chairmen for the event and Marine veteran Christopher Hughes, head of the American Legion Post 29 in town, was the master of ceremonies. Mr. Hughes credited Ms. Crumbine for founding this event and said, “Her dedication to preserving our history is equaled only by her passion for sharing that history with the youth and our younger generation.”

To that end, the Scouts, the Police Explorers and the Boys & Girls Club’s Honor Guard all played key roles and the ceremony again included the “good citizen awards,” which were given to 22 children from all of Greenwich’s schools, both public and private.

“These kids represent some of the very best of our town’s youth,” Mr. Hughes said.

But the focus this year wasn’t just on America’s revolution against the British. The Union army’s great victory in the battle of Gettysburg, which was fought 150 years ago, was also marked as was the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Greenwich High School teacher Mike Galatioto spoke on these historic events, saying the story for both of them began in the summer of 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was written.

“For Lincoln, the purpose of the Civil War was to safeguard a country that could fulfill the promises laid out in the Declaration of Independence,” Mr. Galatioto said. “Lincoln wanted to free the slaves but he also wanted to make sure that after he did, there would be a space in which they could be free. To do this, Lincoln elevated the Declaration of Independence and used it as a tool to save the nation… Lincoln used Jefferson’s sentiments to do what Jefferson himself had been unable to do and redefine freedom as an unalienable right for all men regardless of race or previous condition of servitude.”

Selectman David Theis was tasked with providing the official welcome to the ceremony and he thanked all involved, particularly Ms. Crumbine, for making it bigger and better every year.

“Many people don’t know the price that was paid at all levels by people in this very community,” Mr. Theis said. “I learned that 17 members of the descendants’ families were killed during the Revolutionary War. Did you ever wonder what happened to the rest of the signers of the Declaration of Independence? These were men of means who pledged their lives and fortune for sacred honor because they valued freedom more. Five were captured and tortured before they died, others had their homes ransacked and burned to the ground, nine died from the wounds they received during the war and several lost their sons in the same way. The rest of the 56 spent the time of the war on the run and most of them died from exhaustion before it was over.

“These men signed the Declaration of Independence anyway, knowing if captured it would mean certain death. They had all the security and comforts of the day but valued freedom and liberty more for themselves, for you and for me. We must not take these liberties for granted.”

Mr. Theis was joined at the ceremony by Selectman Drew Marzullo, State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th) and State Reps. Stephen Walko (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st). U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) could not attend but sent a letter.

“We join together today as a nation in tradition and ceremony and in unity and pride,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

The American flags that were all over came courtesy of town resident and Post columnist Ed Dadakis, and music was provided both by the Sound Beach Community Band and the singing of Stefanie Kies. And as soon as the ceremony was over, America’s birthday was celebrated inside Town Hall with cake that was cut with a ceremonial Revolutionary War-style sword.

 

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