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Temperate weather drew a spirited multi-generational crowd of about 100 to Newtown’s VFW Post 308 Memorial Day ceremonies, May 28, as veterans, elected officials, and civilians alike gathered to pay their respects to armed service members past and present.
With Jennifer Clark opening and closing the ceremonies, raising her voice in song, VFW Commander Ray Wisniewski and Post Quartermaster Michael Mich welcomed attendees.
Then, in turn, Marine Sergeant Zach Miller, State Representatives J.P. Sredzinski and Mitch Bolinsky, State Senator Tony Hwang, and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal each offered a few brief, well-chosen words of gratitude.
Sen Hwang recalled the service and sacrifice of two veterans of different generations he said “taught me so much through their different ways about commitment to their country and their community.”
He also reminded the audience that all veterans, no matter when or where they serve, are supported by “family members who share in the sacrifices of missed moments and the constant worry about their loved ones in harm’s way.”
Rep Sredzinski recalled the service of fallen veteran Corporal Kevin Dempsey, a Marine who enlisted hours after the attacks of 9/11. During his service in the Middle East, Rep Sredzinski said Cpl Dempsey and his unit came upon a roadside bomb.
After clearing seven of his team to safety, Rep Sredzinski said the bomb detonated, killing the 23-year-old New Canaan Marine.
“If that’s not heroic bravery, I don’t know what is,” he said.
Rep Bolinsky recalled a speech by President James Garfield, who spoke as a former Civil War veteran at Arlington National Cemetery on Decoration Day 1868 — the precursor to Memorial Day.
“And now, 150 years later, his message about the cost of liberty, the sanctity of our institutions, and the importance of national unity actually seem very appropriate in today’s times,” Rep Bolinsky said. As he closed reading the military oath, a number of attendees could be seen mouthing the words.
“That oath exemplifies the love of country, selfless devotion to duty, and the defense of the principles that make this country so great,” Rep Bolinsky concluded. “They fight or have fought for every single one of us.”
Mr Rosenthal reminded the audience that virtually every veteran asks nothing, while they are willing to give everything so the freedoms everyone enjoys today can be maintained and enjoyed.
The first selectman said that instead of trying to recall specific stories of heroism and valor involving veterans he knew about, he instead chose to pay his respects to all service members.
“In reading the many stories about their gallantry, the biggest takeaway was the courage and unity of purpose shared by our servicemen and women,” he said. “It’s clear that courage knows no race, religion, color, or political party. We are fortunate to be Americans, and we should always reflect on the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives today and every day.”
Following the speeches, members of the Post 308 Auxiliary laid red, white, and blue carnations on a memorial headstone in front of the building, and Commander Wisniewski presented a memorial wreath along with a crisp salute in recognition of all who gave some, and some who gave all.