“It’s a Sunday morning, I know you guys have better things to do, some of you don’t have power,” Mineola American Legion Commander Carl Marchase said standing in front of the memorial rock in Memorial Park. “I want to thank you for coming out and honoring the veterans.”
He was addressing the small gathering of those Mineola residents and members of Cub Scout Troop 246 who had come to the annual Veterans Day ceremony, held on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month every year, coinciding with Armistice Day, which marked the end of hostilities in World Was I, the so-called “war to end all wars.”
“We know that nothing could be further from the truth on that one,” Marchese said, noting the motto “Every day is Veterans Day,” of National American Legion commander James Koutz. “Most of us up here have worn the uniform of our country, we’re all proud of our country, we’ll all proud to have served.”
Members of the Catholic War Veterans 1949, VFW Post 1305 and 1349 and Jim Duffy representing VFW Post 8681 joined Marchese in paying tribute to the veterans of the country – both living and deceased as two members of Troop 246, assisted by Michael Desiderio, placed a commemorative wreath at the memorial rock.
“Thank everybody for coming out, especially Pack 246, showing their appreciation; that’s our future,” village trustee George Durham said. “My thank you to all you gentlemen who served for us.”
Marchese also recognized two survivors of the Normandy invasion: Ray Vaz and the new commander of the Mineola VFW, Tom Scardino.
“The last two weeks have really made us reassess what’s important in life and I think although the Cub Scouts may disagree with me, it’s not Wii, it’s not cable, it’s not telephone and internet, it’s family, friends, loved ones,” Mineola Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “Often times we kind of lose sight of what is important when we have these massive celebrations of people, we have sales in stores and holidays and people see it as a day off so I think today is a reminder just like the last two weeks have been a reminder for us personally of what’s important, I think today this is a reminder of how important our veterans are.”
Mineola Village Trustee Lawrence Werther, paraphrasing former President Ronald Reagan, said that “some people wonder if their lives ever really make a difference and I can tell you with certainty that the members of the United State Military don’t have that problem. They don’t have to wonder because they do make a difference in our lives every single day.”
“We bow our heads and thank Thee for the victories Thou has granted us, to us and for those people who have united with us to stamp out the evils of aggression, intolerance and greed,” Legion Chaplain Don Hammond said in an opening prayer. “We beseech thee to bring the blessings of understanding to the families and friends in this and other lands of those who have given their lives that men may be free.”
Borrowing a page from former VFW Commander Manny Grillo’s playbook, Marchese reminded those in attendance about those veterans who returned with scars and battle wounds which were not visible.
“While we are here to honor all those great men and women today, there is another special group that we don’t hear enough about,” he said. “These are those veterans who have died for this country long after they stop wearing their military uniforms. While their service obligations may have expired, their love of country endured.”
About 1 in 4 of the homeless population of the United States are veterans, 9 of 10 honorably discharged and half served in Vietnam.
“Too often today’s tattered citizen of the street was yesterday’s toast of the town in a crisp uniform with rows of shining medals,” Marchese said. “This is hardly the thanks of a grateful nation.”
Statistically, veterans also comprise a large portion of local police or fire departments.
“When an emergency hits, there’s a good chance that it’s a veteran that’s first to respond,” Marchese said. “Born of their extraordinary accomplishments comes our ordinary debt and for those accomplishments and for their dedication we must always be grateful.”
Werther asked those in attendance to petition that more be done to help veterans who have fallen on difficult times in their lives.
“We as a nation need to express our gratitude in more than just platitudes by getting our elected officials to step up to the plate and take care of our veterans; to make it known that post-traumatic stress disorder is something that is very, very devastating not only to the veterans but to the families and loved ones of the veterans,” he said.
There are also approximately 1.2 million female veterans who have served in America’s military, with the Mineola American Legion chapter recently inducting its first female member. While Yuri Karasz was unable to attend the service, Hammond read the tribute to female veterans in her stead.
“As we put aside the brown and blue and green fabrics that made us one group on the battlefields, we can hold in our minds that tolerance we have achieved,” he said. “In tolerance there is progress, progress towards a better and a happier world.”
The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps by former Marine Sgt. Steve Stolarik followed by a chorus of “God Bless America” by those in attendance.