MONROE, CT — A solemn ceremony on the town green honored the memories of those who sacrificed their lives for our country, as a crowd gathered to pay homage after Monroe’s annual Memorial Day Parade, which was also a celebration of the town’s Bicentennial.
Fire Marshal William “Bill” Davin served as master of ceremonies in place of David York, who has done so for many years.
“It’s not about me or anybody standing here today,” said Davin, standing in front of the Veteran’s Memorial and holding a microphone. “It’s all the people that aren’t standing.”
“Today is a very special day,” First Selectman Ken Kellogg said. “It’s a day when we honor those who served in our armed forced and made the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice for us — for our freedom, for our country.”
The first selectman also noted how the town recently had its 200th birthday. He said its founders exercised their freedom to petition the state legislature, resulting in a new community that was named after then-President James Monroe.
“Think of the many freedoms that we still get to enjoy 200 years later,” Kellogg said, “free and open elections to select those who represent you, a free press, a free market place, not just of commerce but of ideas and opinions, freedom of travel throughout this great country and to visit a foreign land and, when you want to return, to be welcomed back, freedom of faith to worship as you so choose.”
“All of these freedoms come at a cost that is immeasurable,” he continued. “We’re here today to commemorate and honor the lives of those who fought for those freedoms, who protected those freedoms and in doing so gave their lives for their country, for us.”
The first selectman recognized veterans John Thomas and Noreene Thomas Martin of Monroe.
“This year’s honored veterans are John and Noreen Thomas,” Kellogg said. “John served in the Navy Reserves from 1960 to 1966. Noreen served in the Navy from 1962 to 1968 and rose to the rank of lieutenant. We thank you for your service.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, used a cane to march in Sunday’s parade, while still recovering from a broken leg. He gave special thanks to Kellogg, who marched in the parade for the last time as first selectman, and to all of the town’s emergency responders and public servants who make it the “wonderful community” it is.
“I’m so proud to be here on this spectacularly beautiful day,” he said. “We talk about celebrating Memorial Day. We talk about happy Memorial Day and, of course, it’s not a happy occasion. But there is a way to honor the fallen, the great men and women who have given their lives, many of them from Connecticut, in wars over many years, and that is by honoring the living as well.”
Blumenthal said we should honor our veterans, not with just words, but with action, by “making sure we keep our promise to give them the education, skill training, jobs and yes health care that they need.”
As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Blumenthal said he helped pass a new law providing health care and benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, with chemicals that years later cause diseases such as cancer, thyroid disease and diabetes.
“This is a way we honor the fallen and honor the living who we continue to depend on to defend our nation in war and peace,” he said.
State Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe, said those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom are “truly our history” as Monroe celebrates its 200th birthday.
Scott asked the crowd to take time to remember the names of those on the town’s Veterans Memorial behind him, including Victor Sippin and David P. Winspur, who died fighting in World War II, Raymond C. Bailey in the Korean War, J. Kenneth Goett in Vietnam and Kevin I. Dempsey in the Iraq War.
“Those names should be in our minds as we celebrate and reflect today and we move forward to many birthdays in the future,” he said. “We remember, not just those names, not just those serving today, but also the Gold Star Families, who … know personally what it feels like to lose somebody very close to them.”
The Rev. Joseph Gill, pastor of St. Jude Roman Catholic Church, gave the Invocation and Benediction Sunday and Masuk High School student Virginia Grabovski sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”
The American flag was lowered to half mast and Masuk High School trumpeters Samantha Davoren and Braeden Goyette played “Taps”.
The Connecticut Military Department Honor Guard, the Monroe Police Honor Guard, and American Legion Post 16 Color Guard participated in the ceremony. There was also a strong showing from veterans in American Legion Sippin-Winspur Post 176 in Monroe.
Many community organizations participated in the Presentation of the Wreathes ceremony.
The event was made possible by the 2023 Memorial Day Parade Committee, including Chairperson Vida Stone, Jennifer Aguilar, Christine Burns, Ray Ganser, Jonathan Stone and Bob Tranzillo.
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