We had an amazing Veterans Day weekend here, or at least I did and I hope yours was marvelous as well. Our weather in light of the previous ten days was delightful and I enjoyed the opportunity on Sunday to attend two different public observances, one in Taftville in the morning and later in the early afternoon at Chelsea Parade to honor those who have served, and still do, in our armed forces.
It was an opportunity to renew acquaintances with the men who fought in both theaters of World War II-who don't look like the heroes we see in the movies but who are truly heroic as well as a chance to say welcome home again to those who fought and survived Vietnam, a conflict whose beginnings were half a century ago and whose echoes and impact are still evident today.
Both groups of veterans, joined by those from Korea and the Gulf War and those of us who served during the decades of the Cold War, are living testaments to the nobility of the human spirit in times of crisis and their grace under pressure should be an inspiration to us all and a reminder of what we can achieve when we place service over self. I discovered many people whom I have known for decades to have military pasts that helped shape our present, as a city and a nation. They weren't statues, but, rather, neighbors.
Not mentioned Sunday but present in many of our thoughts and hearts were the two young men, both students of Norwich Free Academy, Jacob Martir and Keith Heidtman who answered their nation's call during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who paid for their steadfastness and devotion with their lives.
Not far from where Sunday's ceremony at Chelsea Parade was conducted, another group of young men were playing football-their shouts of exultation at successfully completed passes and their pants of exertion as they relentlessly pursued a fleet of feet halfback helped punctuate the demarcation between who we once were and who we are now.
Someday not too distant from where we sat in the early afternoon sun the Norwich 9/11 Memorial Committee will erect and dedicate a memorial to all who died in uniform since the attacks of 9/11/01. Fund-raising for the project continues and donations can be arranged with Mr. Tony Madeira at Norwich City Hall.
Sunday was a moment to think about how different our lives might be had there not been veterans to bear the burdens and to renew our promises to them, and one another, to do what we can and when we can to make sure those who return from America's wars, injured in body, mind or spirit can always receive the help to heal they deserve and need. As John Kennedy offered over half a century ago, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."