Community walk to honor veterans

Residents packed Greenwich Avenue to pay tribute to veterans during last year's community walk — John Ferris Robben photo

Residents packed Greenwich Avenue to pay tribute to veterans during last year’s community walk
— John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich Military Covenant of Care is inviting residents to show their support for veterans during a community walk on Tuesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

For the second consecutive year, the Greenwich Military Covenant of Care has organized the community walk down Greenwich Avenue, welcoming local veterans to receive much-deserved recognition and share their experiences. The walk will begin at 10 a.m. at the top of Greenwich Avenue, proceeding down to the World War II Memorial near Arch Street at the former site of the post office.

There, veterans who served in war zones will be introduced individually, ranging from those who fought in World War II to those who recently returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opera singer Benjamin Bloomfield will lead the crowd with a patriotic song. Mr. Bloomfield has performed at a number of esteemed venues, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Munich Philharmonic and the Hong Kong Musica Viva.

Last year’s walk brought in 450 citizens, including members of the Board of Selectmen, Board of Education and the Greenwich delegation to Hartford. Police Chief James Heavey called the inaugural walk “a new Greenwich tradition.”

“We set out to create a very inclusive way and easy way for people in Greenwich to show their support of veterans,” Covenant of Care co-founder Bruce Winningham said. “In order to accomplish that, you need to open the door to a wide range of people. … We made it unstructured, it was a walk, nothing was formal. There were no specific procedures other than gather, carry a flag, walk as a group for a couple of blocks together, and then give an expression of thanks to those who have served in the military. Its very simplicity seems to be what makes it so successful.”

Mr. Winningham recognizes the event as a rare opportunity for local residents to voice their support for those who have served. By participating in the event, the community gains greater awareness of veterans and can create an impact that resonates beyond the individual celebration. One change is that this year the heavy participation of Greenwich youth that was there last year will not be possible due to school being in session on Veterans Day, a break from past tradition. However, this will not deter the covenant and all its supporters from spreading the word.

A smaller team within the Covenant of Care, the Greenwich Military Moms Network, is directly responsible for the community walk. Each member of the group is the mother of an active service member, including Marine mother Kathy Derene. Ms. Derene’s son Sam is a Marine corporal currently on a two-year deployment in Okinawa, Japan.

“The hardest thing for me was not having other people to talk to about what was going on,” Ms. Derene told the Post. “Bruce actually found me and then I talked to other moms, and that has been unbelievably rewarding to me, to share my experience with other people who are going through the same thing.”

Mr. Winningham described the specific hardship facing family members of enlisted service members in Greenwich, as military career paths are less frequently less traveled in the town.

“In the same way someone chooses to be an artist or performer, financier or engineer, there are sons and daughters who simply chose this path, and in this town, it’s a path less understood,” Mr. Winningham said. “So it was important for the moms to create a sense of celebration and recognition for this particular segment of this very busy and accomplished town.”

Ms. Derene said that sharing her experiences with the other members of the Military Moms Network helped assuage her initial fears, and better understand how to cope with her son’s deployment. When asked how she felt when she learned her son was enlisting, Ms. Derene said, “I was just so proud of him, proud of this country.”

The Covenant of Care is also partnering with the VA Connecticut Health System to expand the reach of the community walk, providing photo albums and media to be used as inspirational material for veterans of the War on Terror currently receiving treatment for post-traumatic issues.

Though the “war of terror” is the longest in American history, the duties fell upon a comparatively small number of men and women. Mr. Winningham emphasized the amount of stress placed on veterans who had seen multiple tours of duty during the war.

“One of the aspects of this war is that it was fought with a professional, devoted, relatively small group of people who were sent back multiple times,” Mr. Winningham said.

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