Greenwich shows national pride on Veterans Day

Downtown Greenwich was awash in red, white and blue Tuesday as residents came out in huge numbers to show their support on Veterans Day.

The morning’s celebration began with a parade down Greenwich Avenue organized by the Greenwich Military Covenant of Care. Dozens of veterans and hundreds of supporters made their way through downtown with flags waving, paying their respects to all those who have served in the armed forces.

The cheerful march came to an end at the World War II memorial, where Covenant of Care co-founder Bruce Winningham introduced 29 of the veterans in attendance and described their contributions to the country. Mr. Winningham said that Greenwich residents have repeatedly left their mark on U.S. military history and that the veterans introduced Tuesday represent a living portion of that history, having protected and served American interests across the globe.

“Listen to the aggregate concept of all these young boys, all the times they had, all the places they went, and all the risks they took,” Mr. Winningham said. “And when you hear it in one quick burst, it is a humbling, an amazing sound.”

Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star winner Ed Vick was next on the podium, and took the opportunity to remind the crowd how important their support is to returning veterans.

“Words like welcome home and thank you are important, because really in return for stepping up and being willing to risk everything, for you, our neighbors, all we ask in return, besides reasonable medical care, are these few simple words: Welcome home and thank you,” Mr. Vick said.

As the chairman emeritus of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Mr. Vick said, he is still committed to those who dedicate themselves to military service. He explained that while Greenwich may represent a portion of America’s economic 1%, it is the 1% of the population that has fought during the “war on terror” that is truly remarkable.

“Why do we need only 1% of the population for these long wars?” Mr. Vick said. “Because we kept sending the same ones back over and over again.”

One Greenwich mother, Ursula Heely, said she just learned that her son will be travelling to Iraq for his fifth deployment, having reached the rank of major. She is one of a number of Greenwich mothers who have been forced to cope with the country’s strategy of repeated deployment in the Middle East. Representing the Greenwich Military Mom Network, a group within the Covenant of Care, Heather Knapp described the feelings that she felt when her sons Jake and Nick Branson were deployed.

With her sons out of the country, Ms. Knapp became a Blue Star Mom, a tradition dating back to World War I. She hung a pair of blue stars in her window as “talismans” for her children; if they were killed or went missing, the stars were to be changed to gold. But as she fought back tears to tell the crowd, both stayed blue, and both men came home.

“We’re all very thankful for the love and support we feel from this generous Greenwich community, and we thank you for coming from the bottom of our hearts,” Ms. Knapp said.

Closing out the parade, opera soloist Benjamin Bloomfield led the crowd through a trio of patriotic songs, including God Bless America, My Country, ’Tis of Thee and America the Beautiful.

Afterward, Marine veteran and American Legion Post 29 Commander Christopher Hughes continued the Veterans Day festivities at the World War II memorial across the street, with the traditional ceremony featuring First Selectman Peter Tesei and Greenwich’s state representatives. The legion put on a gallant display as the flag was raised, and America’s military, both living and passed on, were honored before the town.

“Today we honor and thank all of the brave men and women who have served this great country in the armed forces of the United States of America, as well as those who are still serving us around the world today on active duty,” Mr. Hughes said. “We’d like to call special attention to those veterans who have served our great nation in combat around the world.”

Mr. Tesei and state Rep. Livvy Floren focused on the role of the town’s youth in celebrating Veterans Day and recognizing the armed forces.

“What we aim to do in paying tribute to each and every one of you who have served our country is to be sure that our young people understand the sacrifice, the commitment and dedication that each of you has made,” Mr. Tesei said.

Ms. Floren presented the Young Person of the Year award to Brunswick School senior Reed McMurchy. Reed is leader in academic, social and athletic spaces at Brunswick, and served as a delegate for the Boys and Girls State program, which offers a hands-on approach to learning the inner workings of American government. The Young Person of the Year award has been an American Legion 29 tradition for 40 years.

In closing, Mr. Hughes thanked all of those who came out to show their care, stressing the importance of keeping the proud legacy of the American armed forces alive. As a member of a long family tradition of service, he reminisced about the past ceremonies that inspired him to enlist.

“I looked up to those men and women, and they were the reason that I joined, continuing a tradition that my father started, and a tradition that my two sons are continuing,” he said. “So for all of you who joined us today who are not veterans, thank you, God bless the United States of America and have an awesome day.”

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