On a clear, crisp fall morning, the color guard led by Ray Quattrini, Commander of Goshen Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1708, marched down South Church Street, carrying flags, waving in the gentle breeze, to the 20th Century monument, where a crowd had gathered to participate in Veterans Day 2021.
As is tradition, the ceremony was held on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month at 11 a.m., the date and time when the Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany in 1918, bringing World War I to an end.
Originally Veteran’s Day was known as Armistice Day until 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all wars.
As moderator of the Veteran’s Day ceremony, Jim Heslop, commander of the Goshen American Post 377, introduced the Goshen High School Varsity Choir students who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Afterward, two of Quattrini’s granddaughters, Samara Quattrini and McKenna Hackbarth, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is a proud day for Pop-Pop,” said Quattrini, announcing that his older granddaughter, Reilly, sang in the Varsity Choir.
‘We are grateful’
Heslop then asked the Rev. Carl Lunden, rector of St. James Episcopal Church, deliver the invocation, calling all to remember the service and sacrifice of servicemen and women.
“We thank and honor all who have served in our country,” Heslop said. “We are grateful to all who have served and are serving today.”
‘A human failure’
“War is a human failure,” said Town of Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield, who served in the armed forces in Germany and Vietnam. “War goes on forever; we need young people to protect our freedoms; serve on our behalf.”
He asked us to “pray for our service men, women and their families. We’re thankful for all our veterans.”
‘Protect our freedom ... by maintaining it’
Service people have done - and are currently doing - what they can to preserve American freedom, but Village of Goshen Mayor Scott Wohl asked for more, more from us.
“We can protect our freedom simply by maintaining it,” Wohl said. “By voting, volunteering, teaching and, importantly, by speaking out against injustice wherever we find it.
“So yes, today is the day for our veterans,” the mayor added, “but it is also for all of us. For all of us to remember why they fought. And a day to reaffirm our commitment to protecting our freedom and the freedom of future generations.”
Not a new issue for veterans
Endorsing what the mayor said, Quattrini asked the public to “raise your awareness of the relentless struggle of disabled American veterans, for access to their rightful reparations.” In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 2,500 soldiers lost their lives, more than 20,000 were wounded and disabled.
Veterans petitioning the government for rightful compensation goes back to the Great Depression of 1932 when they pressed for needed funds for serving in World War I. Thousands were unemployed and homeless, as were their families.
They continued their campaign, even living in camps in Washington, D.C., that in 1933 were removed from federal lands by, ironically, the U.S. Army. No immediate compensation had come for veterans.
“The government that sent these patriots to defend their country had abandoned them. Violently dispersed them, void of compassion and sent them once again to fend for themselves,” Quattrini said, adding that in 1936 “Congress finally conceded and passed legislation to pay the veterans, 18-years after the Armistice was signed. For so many, their meager bonus arrived, far too late, too little.”
What the G.I. Bill can do and cannot do
In 1944, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (commonly known as the G.I. Bill) became law. Aid has steadily increased, but it’s not where it should be. Veterans are sleeping and dying on the streets; many take their own lives in desperation.
“It’s evident that we cannot leave this responsibility to the politicians that can appropriate adequate funds to sustain wars,” Quattrini said, “but never enough to sufficiently heal the wounds of those sent to fight it.”
Quattrini urged Americans to raise their voices, place the needs of veterans at the forefront of Congressional means and demand accountability.
It’s time, the commander of Goshen Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1708 added, for government to listen
“So yes, today is the day for our veterans, but it is also for all of us. For all of us to remember why they fought. And a day to reaffirm our commitment to protecting our freedom and the freedom of future generations.”
Goshen Village Mayor Scott Wohl
“It’s evident that we cannot leave this responsibility to the politicians that can appropriate adequate funds to sustain wars but never enough to sufficiently heal the wounds of those sent to fight it.”
Ray Quattrini, commander of Goshen Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1708