Salute to Veterans returns with great fanfare

p1-Salute-to-vets-AA little after 2 p.m. in the middle of Havemeyer Field, Alan Sharkany said the words people had been waiting to hear.

“The Salute to Veterans is back,” he declared to loud applause as a Greenwich tradition made its grand comeback in style last weekend.

The annual ceremony, where veterans came together to receive the message of “thank you and welcome home,” had been closely associated with the Fourth of July for 18 years. And this year, after a short hiatus, Mr. Sharkany, a Weston resident and a Marine veteran, brought it back to the delight of many who came to watch the salute. Greenwich residents young and old and even many from out of town turned up for the salute’s return and celebrated in the pagentry.

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“There’s been so much community support for this,” Mr. Sharkany said, thanking everyone who made the return possible. “People told us how wonderful it was that this was coming back and I really appreciate that but it’s important to remember that this is all for our veterans. It’s about serving and giving, and everything we’re doing here is to rightfully honor and thank those who have served and secured our precious freedoms.”

Mr. Sharkany said he had been given nothing but help from the Board of Selectmen, the Greenwich Police Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation. First Selectman Peter Tesei, Selectman David Theis and Selectman Drew Marzullo were up on stage for a look at the salute and Mr. Theis spoke on behalf of the board.

“As a young child growing up in Greenwich, I always admired how much respect and appreciation this town showed for its veterans,” Mr. Theis said. “We have the memorial stones right out front of the Havemeyer Building and if you’re ever on the Avenue and have a few minutes, stop by and read those names and offer a quiet prayer of thanks. These were friends, neighbors, classmates, teammates and relatives of Greenwich, just like you and me. I can remember watching the old American Legion Band coming down Greenwich Avenue in their bright blue uniforms with the silver buttons gleaming in the sunlight. And now today we have events like this.”

Mr. Theis said it was important to remember “those who paid in full for all the things we want and need today, including the ability to meet here in peace and freedom without fear of retribution in this beautiful town of Greenwich.”

Both Mr. Sharkany and Mr. Theis thanked Jim Carrier, a town resident who started the Salute to Veterans and has been a lifelong supporter of veterans and the military. Mr. Carrier attended the salute but kept a low key to keep the focus on thanking those who had served.

“Without him starting this, we wouldn’t be here today,” Mr. Sharkany said.

At the beginnng of the ceremony all the veterans in attendance were invited to the center of the field to help unfurl a giant American flag. This group included Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a town resident and a former Marine, who later spoke and thanked everyone who had come out to show their support in “this great tradition.” Mr. Blumenthal then asked all the veterans in the crowd to stand up or raise their hands so they could be given a round of applause.

“Havemeyer never looks more beautiful than on those days when we unfurl the American flag in it,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “What a great sight that is. That picture, as they say, says a thousand words.”

Mr. Blumenthal spoke about how that day he had attended the opening of a new home for Glastonbury Marine Cpl. Manny Jimenez, who lost his arm, his hearing in one ear and part of his jaw while in service. He said it was vital to make sure that Cpl. Jimenez and all the other troops coming home had the country’s full support.

“We owe it to them to keep faith with them and all of our veterans,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “We must leave no veteran behind when it comes to education or jobs or training and counseling and, yes, healthcare. That is our nation’s responsibility.”

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Team from Washington, D.C., was the featured event of the salute, and the performance was led by a man with local connections. Capt. Edward Hubbard, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was born in Rye, N.Y. but he attended Brunswick School in Greenwich and said it meant a lot for him to come back and be a part of the Salute to Veterans.

“This is something I cherish very deeply and I truly appreciate the support you give to our veterans and our service members as well as to us as a silent drill platoon,” Capt. Hubbard said.

Mr. Tesei read a proclimation in his honor and decalred June 23 to be Capt. Edward J. Hubbard Day in Greenwich.

“Your presence here today means so much to so many people who came out here to support you,” Mr. Tesei said, urging everyone to thank Capt. Hubbard for his “courageous service for the freedom of our great nation.”

The salute also featured an address by two Greenwich High School students, Lizzy Trotta and Kelly Weigold, who created the HEROES Club at school to show support for soldiers locally and internationally. Lizzy said they were proud to honor the “true heroes.”

“To all the veterans and active service men and women who have given so much to us, you are the reason our country is so exceptional,” Lizzy said.

“This year, our goal for HEROES was to get the student body actively involved and genuinely interested in understanding and appreciating the sacrafices of our military men and women,” Kelly, whose father is a U.S. Navy admiral on duty in the Sea of Japan, said. “We look forward to the future of our club and the opportunity to continue honoring the members of our military community.”

One member of the salute’s audience who was very happy to see it back was town resident Caroline Ducibella, a 96-year-old World War II veteran. A lieutenant in the Nursing Corps, Ms. Ducibella was at the Normandy invasion, facing the grim task of treating the severely wounded and removing the casualties from the beach. She said she had never missed a Salute to Veterans and was glad to have it back.

“It makes me feel very proud that someone would recall and remember,” Ms. Ducibella said. “I always have felt very proud of what we did. People would ask ‘What did you do?’ and you can tell them about being on Omaha Beach and setting up tents and taking care of the casualties. It’s a memory you never forget. It’s all part of your life and it stays with you. I love events like this and it’s good for the young and the old generation to have this, mostly the young because I think this brings things to life for them. They can read a lot in a book but when they hear someone it’s more alive for them.”

Mr. Sharkany told the Post on Monday that the salute was “an amazing feat pulled off by a lot of dedicated people” and pledged it would become a yearly event once more, because “the community and the veterans deserve it.”

 

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All slideshow photos are courtesy of Post photographer John Ferris Robben

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