Veterans deserve big turnout on Nov. 11

07Nov15

salutes111110Next Wednesday is Veterans Day.

It’s one of the few holidays left that hasn’t been consigned to the nearest Monday in order to create another long weekend for those who have the day off.

If you’re not a public employee, chances are you have to work on Veterans Day. On one hand, I understand not wanting to shut down commerce for another day, especially when the holiday falls right smack in the middle of the business week. On the other hand, what could be a better cause for interrupting business as usual than to stop and honor veterans?

As always, the Town of Wakefield, Massachusetts will hold its Veterans Day observance in Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School, named for Wakefield native Gen. John R. Galvin. The program gets underway at 11 a.m. – “at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

galvin_school_flag2If you’ve never attended Wakefield’s Veterans Day program, or if it’s been a few years, you have no idea what you’re missing. If you think it’s just a bunch of boring speeches, you’ve definitely been away for a while. The music provided by Wakefield Memorial High School Wind Ensemble, the WMHS Chamber Singers and the Wakefield Choral Society alone is worth showing up for.

One of the more moving parts of the annual Veterans Day ceremony comes when the High School Wind Ensemble plays “Armed Forces: Pride of America,” a medley of the theme songs of the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. As each song is played, veterans in attendance from that branch of the service stand and are applauded by the audience. If you can sit through that without a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, you might want to check your pulse.

women_veteransThis year, in addition to the traditional Veterans Day morning ceremonies, there will be a special afternoon ceremony at 1:30 p.m. to officially dedicate the newest monument on Veterans Memorial Common – one that honors women veterans. The granite monument reads: “Honoring the service of Wakefield women in the Armed Forces while inspiring future generations to answer the call.”

A nearby magnolia tree will also be dedicated in honor of Wakefield women who served and sacrificed in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The featured speaker will be US Army veteran and Wakefield Firefighter Marnie Sheeran.

Alicia Reddin, Wakefield’s Veterans Services Officer and a US Navy veteran, will preside over the ceremony.

alicia_wssc“Women have served courageously in America’s wars and conflicts throughout our history and it is about time we acknowledge and honor that,” Reddin says. “Women served on the battlefield as far back as America’s War of Independence when it was not uncommon for wives, mothers, and daughters to follow their male loved ones into battle. During World War I, nurses firmly established the importance of women to the armed forces and during World War II women served in relatively large numbers. Acceptance of these women was not always given willingly, both in Congress and within the military itself.

“During the Korean Conflict, there were goals to increase by several-fold the number of women in each of the branches and another big push came during the Vietnam War,” Reddin adds. “The Persian Gulf War began the shift when women flew combat aircraft, manned missile placements, served on ships in the Gulf, drove convoys in the desert, and assumed other roles making exposure to combat more likely, leading us to today with over 160 women who have been killed in action during the Global War on Terror.

“Women have fought for equality and equity in the military and sacrificed a great deal to get it,” Reddin notes. “There is still work to be done but this is a step in the right direction. Honoring that women have been a key part in each military victory, honoring the experience of every women in uniform is what this is about.”

Soldier salutes flagIn this time of deep political division, the importance of honoring our veterans is one of the few things that virtually everyone can agree on.

Here’s hoping that the citizens of Wakefield turn out in large numbers for both the morning Veterans Day observance and the afternoon ceremony to honor women veterans. If you attend either or both events, I guarantee you will leave feeling better than you did when you arrived.

Taking an hour or two next Wednesday to show our respect for those who have worn the uniform is, quite literally, the least we can do.

[This column originally appeared in the November 5, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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