Veterans Day on Shelter Island was clear, bright and mild, a stellar day for a heartfelt Island tribute to those who have served and continue to serve the country.
Legion member Jim Colligan was the master of ceremonies and keynote speaker for the observance, which took place in front of the Legion Hall on Monday morning.
Dave Clark, post commander, welcomed the crowd, suggesting that everyone “reach out and shake the hand of a vet today,” as well as remembering “all the boys and girls currently fighting overseas.”
According to Mr. Colligan, there are currently 21 Islanders who are in uniform on active duty, including nine officers and 12 enlisted personnel. Three of these are in the Air Force; five in the Marine Corps; six in the Army and seven in the Navy.
Following an invocation by Father Charles F. McCarron of St. Mary’s, Father Peter DeSanctis of Our Lady of the Isle read the list of Legion Post 281 members who had passed away in the past year. These included Alexander Budd, William Sulahian, Dorothy Clark, Joseph Murphy, Jack Ketcham, George Walsh, Howard Jackson, James Read Sr. and Joseph Arth.
Mr. Clark then guided the Girl and Boy Scouts in the unfolding of the American flag, telling them that “everyone’s going to help with their hands” in this task. The flag was raised to its full height, then carefully lowered to half-staff in honor of Mr. Murphy, who had just passed away the day before.
Following Linda Bonaccorso’s singing of the National Anthem, Legion Auxiliary member Pam Jackson read a poem that her late husband, Howard, had left for her before he passed away a short time ago. Mr. Jackson, a member of “The Greatest Generation,” was the keynote speaker at this year’s Memorial Day observance, holding the crowd in thrall with his memories of pre-flight preparations before bombing missions in Europe during World War II. “We are the land of the free because of the brave,” she said.
In his brief remarks, Mr. Colligan noted the history of the holiday, once known as Armistice Day, which commemorated the cessation of hostilities at the end of World War I — the war to end all wars — on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Today’s service men and women are fighting the “difficult and prolonged War on Terrorism,” he noted, with deployments in 80 countries around the globe, often serving multiple tours of duty, and with no end in sight.
“As Americans, we need to appreciate the sacrifices made by our active duty personnel and our veterans who served in the past. Our veterans really appreciate your words of support and acts of kindness directed to them.”
While most service members return home able to resume productive lives, others, he said, suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or other debilitating side effects of their military service. “The Wounded Warrior Project has helped thousands of vets overcome their wartime disabilities and live productive lives. The Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund here on Shelter Island also helps veterans when they return home. Both of these organizations deserve our support; they make a difference in the lives of our veterans.”
Five students from the Shelter Island School and music teacher Lauren Farkas led the crowd in Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” before Pastor Robert Griffith of the Presbyterian Church offered the Benediction to conclude the morning’s program.