Chester commemorates those who fought in 'The Great War' and all conflicts before and after

Chester commemorates those who fought in 'The Great War' and all conflicts before and after

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  • Dylan Bloom, right, checks the position of his flag at Chester's services (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Elizabeth Westbrook of Chester (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Chester firefighters (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • The Color Guard at Chester's services (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Taps player in Chester (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • The wreath laying in Chester (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Rosemary Eckard and newly elected NYS Senator James Skoufis at Chester’s ceremonies (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Aaron Lefkowitz at table of World War I artifacts (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • World War I artifacts (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Chester's World War I monument, with the names of those who served (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Veterans from American Legion Post 151 in Middletown provided the gun salute at Chester’s ceremonies (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • More World War I artifacts (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Dylan Bloom and dad, Roger, participated in Chester’s Veterans Day ceremonies (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Battle plaque (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Vets stand for recognition (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Military medals (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

By Ginny Privitar

— This year's Veterans Day was special. Nov. 11, 2018, marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of armistice that ended “The Great War.” Sadly, that would later become known as World War I.

At the Walton Engine and Hose firehouse in Chester, firefighters, Scouts, veterans, and other members of the community paid homage to those who fought in The Great War and all conflicts that preceded and followed that war.

“This is to honor all the veterans serving our nation," said veteran Jose Cortez.

Elizabeth Westbrook, age 7, understand the importance of the day, “to celebrate veterans who are alive and passed away.”

“It’s good that I’m here to do it, to remember all the guys that I lost back in ‘67-‘68 in Vietnam," said Lee Zamot, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran. "Like I tell everybody, I was there for the party in ‘68. Everybody says ‘What party is that?’ I say that’s Tet ’68 — it couldn’t get no worse than that.”

Zamot was wearing his uniform.

“I tell people I don’t wear it for me, I wear it for the guys that can’t be here," he said.

On this cold day, ceremonies were held inside. American Legion Orange Blossom Post 1167 Commander Ed Johnson officiated. Prayer was offered by Post Chaplain Bob Allen and singing of the National Anthem.

Evelyn Torres, American Legion Auxiliary member and second vice-commander of the county, said, “My husband served and now my son is serving. It means a lot to me that they recognize all the veterans and the hard work they do and all the sacrifices they made in their lives.”

Mark Thomas, Chester Fire Chief, said, “This is a great example of where folks from the Village and Town of Chester have continued to serve their community and recognize those that over the years have served our country and really made things what they are today so the rest of us can enjoy our freedom and a sense of community.”

'Who will stand for democracy?'Commander Johnson introduced Aaron Lefkowitz, a historical researcher who has written a series of articles on Chester veterans of World War I for The Chronicle.

Lefkowitz spoke about the veterans he researched, as well as those “whose memory is lost to time, but whose name is not, thanks to our plaque." He referred to the monument outside the firehouse commemorating Chester’s World War I veterans.

“World War I is worth remembering because for the first time when the world asked, ‘Who will stand for democracy, freedom and safety, not just for themselves, but for all humanity?’" he said. "America answered that we shall complete this great task, no matter the challenges we might face."

Later, he explained the history of a number of World War I artifacts displayed at a table in the firehouse. There were uniforms, helmets and medals, along with small books describing various important battles, on loan from the Chester Historical Society and members of the community.

"I have really enjoyed the articles that Aaron Lefkowitz has written for The Chronicle over the past few months, and I would like to see him continue," said Village Board member Betty Reilly. "I think we had a wonderful turnout this morning for our Veterans Day services, and I was happy to be here.”

A color guard/rifle squad included veterans from American Legion Post 151 in Middletown: County Commander Vincent Gallipoli; Color Guard Commander Jose Cortez, veteran Lee Zamot, and Orange County American Legion Second Vice-Commander Evelyn Torres. The three vets fired three shots, and members of Chester Academy band played Taps. The gathering then sang "God Bless America" and afterward broke for refreshments and conversation.

Veteran Vincent Gallipoli observed, “Today is a day to honor all the living veterans, all those who signed their name, up to and including their life, to defend their country."

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