‘Incredible day’ promised as Salute to Veterans returns

One of the more popular events in town is returning this weekend as the Salute to Veterans is set for Saturday afternoon.

For 18 years, town resident Jim Carrier held the event close to the Fourth of July to offer veterans the message of “thank you and welcome home” and now it’s Alan Sharkany’s turn. After a one-year layoff, Mr. Sharkany has been working with dedicated volunteers from all over the county to make the return a reality and on June 23 at 2 p.m. in the middle of Havemeyer Field a giant American flag will be unfurled to officially declare that the Salute to Veterans is back.

In an interview with the Post this week, Mr. Sharkany said that he is excited and that everything is “more than ready” for this Saturday. The unfurling of the flag, which has traditionally been done by all the veterans in attendance, will kick off the event which will also have participation from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, remarks from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a town resident and a former Marine, an awards ceremony with some surprise guests of honor and a performance by the Marine Corps silent drill team, which has been a very popular feature of past ceremonies.

 

Military vehicles, ranging from Marine Corps Humvees to a World War II-era Jeep, will be on display. As in the past there will also be plenty of events for families, with everything from patriotic music to face painting to a pull up bar that will allow people of all ages to test their skills. But the pull up bar won’t just be there for fun. Military recruiters will also be on hand to see if the people of Greenwich who are interested in joining up have the right stuff.

“It’s going to be an incredible day,” Mr. Sharkany promised. “Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices and their contributions are what allow us to come out on for an event like this. They serve to maintain this great nation and they’re what this event is all about.”

Mr. Sharkany, a Marine veteran and a Weston resident, said that he had been a big fan of the annual Salute to Veterans when Mr. Carrier ran it, often attending with his family. Mr. Carrier’s ongoing commitments to helping wounded veterans with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which has built a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center for vets in Texas, and Fisher House, which houses families of soldiers staying at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, made him unable to keep the salute going at the high level it had established, but Mr. Sharkany didn’t want to see it end.

Mr. Sharkany, who has run his own program called BUD/S & Beyond to help prepare special forces soldiers for the unique challenges they face, said he had seen first hand the impact of Mr. Carrier’s salute and it’s message of thank you, not just on him but on his fellow veterans.

So after the event wasn’t held in 2011, Mr. Sharkany announced last fall that it was coming back and now that promise is being delivered upon. While not a town resident, he’s certainly seen the level of commitment Greenwich has had on veterans issues and that it’s shown from all the support he’s gotten from the selectmen, the Department of Parks and Recreation and all the volunteers who have helped out.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with everyone,” Mr. Sharkany said. “Everyone is so genuine. They go out of their way to help. I’ve had people who have wanted to come in and see if we needed them to run simple errands for us or even help with parking or mail out the postcards to publicize the event. The fabric of the community here is so strong. They really care about veterans and they want to make the commitment to them. And it’s not just in words either. They’re putting the work and the money into making this happen.”

Even with the help of all the dedicated volunteers, Mr. Sharkany said that the logistics of putting an event like this together have left him with a new appreciation for all the energy Mr. Carrier invested.

“I give Jim Carrier a lot of credit,” Mr. Sharkany said. “This is a huge undertaking. But fortunately everyone has been so supportive. There’s a lot of energy that goes into this, but also a lot of love. You can feel that everyone who’s gotten involved with this is doing it to show appreciation for our veterans. So many people have wanted to help out and it’s great to see that kind of spirit and energy around such an important issue.”

Mr. Sharkany said he doesn’t intend for this to be a one-time event either. He wants it to once again be an annual event.

While he will not personally be in attendance on Saturday, Mr. Carrier will definitely be there in spirit. When Mr. Sharkany’s intentions first became official last fall, it was Mr. Carrier who made the first donation to the event, effectively passing the torch from one veterans advocate to another. At the time, Mr. Carrier said he didn’t want to do anything to interfere with Mr. Sharkany’s efforts and vision for the event and now that it is days from coming back, Mr. Carrier told the Post that he’s just pleased the mission is continuing.

“I’m delighted and very proud of Alan Sharkany for all of his hard work,” Mr. Carrier said. “I wish him the absolute best with this because it’s such an important thing to do. I think it’s awesome that veterans are going to be recognized.”

Mr. Sharkany added, “I’m honored and humbled to be at the helm of this. When someone hands you the baton of something as important as this, you have an obligation to go and do the best you can and keep the message going. It meant a lot to me and I’m excited for the community to come out and pay tribute to our veterans. My board and all the volunteers have made this happen. They’ve all gone above and beyond and we can’t wait for people to see what’s going to happen on Saturday.”

 

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