MONROE, CT — A Veterans Day ceremony was held on Stepney Green Saturday morning, when local veterans, public officials, clergy and residents gathered to honor the men and women who served and continue to serve in our armed forces.
Victor Yanosy, commander of the American Legion’s Sippin-Winspur Post 176 in Monroe, and Donald Rodgerson, commander of the Charles L. Ruman Post 160 in Easton, officiated the ceremony.
Rodgerson shared a moving story illustrating how contributions at home can help military personnel overseas. The story is from an article by Claire Barrett on HistoryNet.
Navy Signalman 3rd Class Elgin Staples, 19, of Akron, Ohio, was aboard the New Orleans-class cruiser the USS Astoria in August of 1942 when the Japanese attacked in the channel between Savo and Guadalcanal during World War II.
The ship was sunk and more than 200 men were lost aboard the Astoria. In all, the Allied casualties included 1,023 dead and 709 wounded during the Battle of Savo Island.
But Staples survived after going into the water, “thanks to his M1926 inflatable rubber life belt strapped around his waist.”
After the traumatic incident, he noticed the belt was manufactured by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He later told the story to his mother. She asked to look at the inspection tag, when her eyes widened in surprise.
“Son, I’m an inspector at Firestone. This is my inspector number,” she said, her voice hardly above a whisper.
“My mother was not a demonstrative woman,” Staples recalled, “but the significance of this amazing coincidence overcame her usual reserve. We hugged each other for a long, long time, feeling the bond between us. My mother had put her arms halfway around the world to save me.”
Retired Army Col. Ronald Berry, of Easton, was among the speakers. He shared ways civilians can show their appreciation to veterans today:
- Fly the flag if you fly it correctly.
- When engaging a veteran in conversation, “it’s always nice to ask where they served, how they served, what branch they served. Those things are important.”
- Visit or volunteer at a VA Hospital.
“People always say, ‘thank you for your service,'” Berry said. “We all appreciate that. There’s somewhat of a movement going on that that’s the wrong phrase to use. It is not. Thank you is a word of appreciation. We appreciate you, your support and it’s an honor for us to serve and take and maintain the Constitution of the United States, so that you can enjoy the freedom and the rights that you are entitled to.”
Among the local dignitaries at the ceremony were Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg, Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass and State Rep. Tony Scott, R-112th.
In the crowd, Terry Rooney, who was recently elected as Kellogg’s successor after he decided not to run again, stood beside his wife, Nadine. Fire Marshall William “Bill Davin” and Monroe Fire Chief Kevin Catalano were among several public officials attendance.
“If you look around us and at all of the beauty and wonderful things that we have, they are all only possible because of people like you who have been willing to work and potentially sacrifice yourselves, so that we could have what we have today,” Bindelglass said to the uniformed veterans.
Bindelglass said it seems more poignant due to the fact that the U.S. may be headed toward further intervention in ongoing conflicts in the world.
“This underscores how important it is to this country that we have people like you guys, who are willing to go out there and fight for our way of life and our country,” he said, “so God bless all of you. God bless America and thank you ever so much for your service.”
“It always strikes me that Veterans Day is held not too long after another important day in America and that is Election Day,” Kellogg said. “What could be a more powerful symbol of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans than voting in free and open elections for those who are going to represent and lead us?”
“Think about that and all of the other freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the people that we have to thank for those freedoms are our veterans, for the sacrifices that they gave, that their families gave, for us so that we could be free and that we could enjoy being Americans,” Kellogg continued.
“On behalf of the town of Monroe, I want to say to our veterans, thank you and I salute you,” he said.
Scott thanked the veterans for their service.
“I never served in the military. My grandfather did and I heard all the stories through him — and there’s a little piece of me that misses that I did not serve,” Scott said. “But I can see the heroes here and I live vicariously through you as much as I can to know that you guys did the service that’s needed to serve and protect this country.”
Scott recognized the contributions of those who served in the armed forces generations ago have made, as well as those who currently serve as the U.S. helps Israel and Ukraine, two allies at war with their enemies.
“Thank you for your service and God bless those troops out there today to make sure they stay healthy and come home,” he said.
The ceremony included the presentation of the wreathes by the World War I Memorial. Bishop Adan Rodrigues from the Lady of the Holy Rosary led the opening prayer and the Benediction.
After the ceremony, Rodgerson invited everyone to the Girl Scouts of Easton brunch at Jesse Lee United Methodist Church on Flat Rock Road in Easton.
Then the crowd spontaneously sang, “America the Beautiful.”
The green was adorned with Flags Over Stepney, a Save Our Stepney Task Force display featuring 13 American Flags that fly during every patriotic event.
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