Despite Rain, Westport Honors Its Heroes

For the 2nd year in a row, Westport canceled its Memorial Day parade.

But the men and women who gave their lives for our country — and all who served it — were memorialized in a moving ceremony at Town Hall.

2nd selectman Avi Kaner live-streamed it on Facebook. If you missed it, you can watch the impassioned speeches — and hear the stirring music — by clicking here. (The ceremony starts at the 10:30 mark.)

Among the speakers was 1st selectman Jim Marpe. He wove together the past and present, linking yesterday’s heroes with today’s “turbulent and unprecedented” times.

And — continuing a wonderful Westport tradition — he gave a sad roll call of the veterans we’ve lost within the past year. Here is his speech:

Good morning. It is an honor and privilege to be here today. First, I must salute the great gentleman we all love to call Mr. Parade, Bill Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council. Bill has orchestrated this special event for the last 47 years, in a true demonstration of love and commitment to his town and country. And thank you to everyone who has a role in making this great parade and these ceremonies happen.

Grand marshal Ed Vebell.

In just a few moments, we will hear from this year’s grand marshal, Edward Vebell. Ed is a World War II veteran who joined the Air Force in 1942. He was a member of the 904thCamouflage Unit, dropped behind enemy lines to sketch enemy equipment and positions.

He was also with Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. We honor and recognize you, Ed, for your bravery under fire and distinguished service to our country.

We gather here today in our cherished annual tradition, to recognize those who sacrificed their lives for our great nation. We also honor the men and women right here among us who have served our country, whether in battle or in support of those who chose to put their country before themselves.

The contrast between our beautiful and peaceful town and the battlegrounds our soldiers experienced seems unimaginable right now. Technological advances and our societal demand for instantaneous news has shaped our experience of war, world conflict and political upheaval through high definition televisions, computer screens, and abrupt notifications on cell phones. We look at world politics, radical terrorism, chemical warfare, revolution and military oppression through a vastly different lens than we did a generation ago.

So how do we manage to uphold traditions and honor our past, but keep up with the technology and fascination with newer and faster means to gather information? What is our responsibility as Westporters in this fast-paced, ever changing world in which we live?

My answer is simple.  Like we have done for decades, we take a breath on the last Monday in May, reflect on our country’s history of great sacrifice and we honor those who have served and continue to serve. We recognize the tradition of Memorial Day. We value the sacrifices made by others to preserve our history and our tradition of civil discourse, where we constantly witness democracy in action despite strong and sometimes opposing views.

This sign on the 2014 parade route said it all.

The issues of the day make it appear as if the divide grows ever greater. But if we look back on our history, and recognize just a few of the lessons of the past, we can see that our democracy has withstood the test of time, despite tremendous cost.

It is almost a cliché to say that the Civil War pitted North against South, brother against brother; that the country could never unite again. Before World War II,the US was stubbornly isolationist. Today, many believe the decision to fight was an easy one, but it was not…it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to hurtle the US into war.

The Vietnam War tore our nation apart, pitting a younger generation against an older one, liberals against conservatives, and those who served against those who objected. Our political climate today, which for many feels turbulent and unprecedented, has in fact mobilized many who are trying to effect change peacefully, through demonstrations and lawful means, which is the bedrock of our country.

As Westporters, we celebrate the ability to disagree in a civil manner, but when the time comes to defend our great nation and the liberties we cherish, our men and women continue to place service to our country above themselves. We honor and thank them all today.

And now, as we have done in years past, I will make special mention of those war veterans who lived in Westport who have passed away this past year, with apologies in advance for any we may have inadvertently omitted.

Bertram Aber
Bruno Arcudi
Ernest (Ernie) Arnow
George F. Avery, Jr.
Alexander (Al) Balas
Robert Brannigan
Russell Brenneman
Erwine T. Buckenmaier, Jr.
Donald Evans Casciato
Frank Clark
C. Steven Crosby
Daniel B. Driscoll
Mary T. Ferruccio
Edward B. Gill
Thelma Gordon
Brett Matthew Hauslaib
James R. Hurley
Robert Kochiss
Kenneth H. Lanouette, Jr.
John Lomartire
Henry R. Loomis
Delmor B. Markoff
George H. Marks, Sr.
James P. McCabe
Frederick Meier, Sr.
Durwood (Woody) C. Milone
Jonathan B. Morris
John Nazzaro, Sr.
H. Elliott Netherton, Jr.
John G. Petti, Jr.
Alan Phelan
Charles T. Raymond
Philip W. Reeves
Estelle Reitano
Warren Rossell
Jack Rotman
Harold Scher
Frank Scotti
John C. Skinner
Jerome T. Spinola
David S. Stein
George L. Sterling
William E. Surrette
Walter (Wally) J. Sutherland
Ronald J. Swenn
Hugh B. Sweeney, Jr.
Albert R. Tremonte
William G. Turner, Jr.
George W. Underhill
Lawrence N. Waterbury

Let us always remember the service that these veterans gave to our country.

When you return to your homes today, enjoy your holiday, and take the time to reflect onwhat the flags, the music, the traditions and the speeches mean, and what you want your children and grandchildren to remember about Westport’s Memorial Day. That it means placing service to your country above yourself, and that the price of democracy, of the ability to debate and disagree in a civil and respectful manner, may mean making the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Today, we honor those who made that sacrifice for us all.

Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful Memorial Day.

On Myrtle Avenue the quintessential Memorial Day view.

5 responses to “Despite Rain, Westport Honors Its Heroes

  1. Great speech by our First Selectman, Jim Marpe, this morning.

  2. Dan, thank you for remembering my father, Daniel B. Driscoll. A World War ll Navy Ace he passed away January 11.

  3. Bonnie Bradley

    Thank you, Dan, for giving those of us who are “away” – but still keep Westport in our hearts – the opportunity to share in this beautiful and very meaningful report on the Memorial Day celebration today. To read the names and remember some we knew is very moving and important.

  4. The indoor ceremonies were so very touching and well attended! Thank you to all who have served our country.

  5. Mom (Mary T. Ferruccio) is pinch hitting for dad (Anthony J. Ferruccio) on this list. She passed in February of this year. Dad, a WW2 Navy Veteran passed in February 1994.
    Thank you for posting this list and for all those who served.

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