Today, less than 1 percent of the population defends the rest of us, Ed Johnson told the group gathered for Veterans Day services in Chester.
Johnson is commander of the Orange Blossoms American Legion Post 1167. “We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, to say thank you for their sacrifices,” he said in his address.
He gave examples of those sacrifices, and reminded the assembly that servicemen and -women defend us 365 days a year.
“As we look at the Middle East today, we know that there is a large, dangerous, committed group of fanatics that wants us dead," Johnson said. "And while ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other terrorists may lack the conventional weapons of Nazi Germany or Hirohito’s Japan, they are every bit as evil in their intentions. Those who defend us from our enemies must be supported."
After he concluded his remarks, he asked the military service members who were present to stand. The assembly applauded their dedication.
Father John Bonnici of Saint Columba Roman Catholic Church offered a prayer. Sue Bahren led the community in singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” Boy and Girl Scouts were there in force and formed a color guard. Julia Cassano, Sameer El-Rifai and Sarah Milyko, all 11th graders, played Taps.
Never forget our veterans
Eileen Hand was there with her son Bill and granddaughter Dinah Michelle.
“Today means a tough time, you know, having boys in the military, and my husband was shot down in Vietnam, so we’re here to make sure that people never forget,” she said.
Eileen has two sons, John and Matthew, still on active duty in the Army. A third son, Thomas, is an independent contractor for the Navy.
Bill Hand said, “Today is a day of remembrance for all the soldiers, seamen and airmen who have served defending America and protecting our values.”
Gail Goodson was in the Marines for six years, leaving in 1984. John Mutchler served from 1955 to 1959. Both were at services wearing Marine Corps League uniforms.
“It’s an emotional day, if you want to know the truth,” Mutchler said. “I just returned from Normandy. I went to Belleau Wood with my kids. Anybody — if it doesn’t move them when they go to the cemetery, there’s got to be something wrong with them.”
Goodson added, “Today, as veterans, it’s always important that we see the community support. And yes, it is an emotional day, too, because we also pay tribute to the Marines, our brothers and sisters, who are no longer with us.”
Goodson’s granddaughter Scarlett Coretto, 11, was there, too. Scarlett used to live in Chester and came all the way from Minisink for the day.
“It’s a very important day because all people will hear that we lost some people, but it’s a great day to remember them,” she said.
Bob Benedict attended with his wife, Maryann. He was a New York City Police detective for 24 years. He said Veterans Day honored "all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country and for the world — to this day."
“It’s a very special day,” Maryann Benedict added. "I was watching Fox and Friends this morning and saw 12 veterans become U.S. citizens, and it was very moving and very touching. We can’t honor our veterans enough, as far as I’m concerned. They deserve so much, and my heart breaks for everyone who’s lost someone in service.”
Joseph Poletynski served in the Army from 1961 to 1963 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“It‘s nice to see the great support that a lot of people are giving and remembering the vets,” he said. “It’s an honor.”
"God, please let every veteran in our nation’s armed forces feel truly and appropriately honored by the attention and appreciation of their fellow citizens. Let no one feel forgotten or neglected. Let every man and woman young or old feel the deep and enduring gratitude of our nation and its inhabitants...Please bring healing to those veterans who still hurt. Please grant patience and wisdom to those around them who cannot understand, but who can help the healing process. Father, please turn your gaze to those men and women, who in their military service, have sacrificed time, comforts, strengths, ambitions, health and prosperity for the peace and safety of family and friends and others they’ve never ever known. Please reward them a hundred-fold for all their sacrifice and service. Bless them far beyond their expectations; reward them richly for all they have given." --Father John Bonnici