Right in the middle of your Spring weekend and its clean-up from a too-long and too-hard winter, through the scrapped-knuckle yard work reclaiming a flower patch or preparing a vegetable garden to maybe not doing very much of anything at all except taking in the lovely weather we’ve been promised and hoping there’s more (and lots of it) yet to come, I would hope you can find the time this Saturday to mark the turning of a page in a story that’s half a century old.
On March 8, 1965, the United States’ ground war in the Republic of Vietnam began with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. By Christmas of that year, there were nearly 200,000 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors in country.
By the time American involvement concluded, April 30, 1975, about three million American military members had served on river patrols, at base camps and on air bases. Nearly 304,000 were wounded; to this day 1,628 remain missing in action or unaccounted for and more than 58,000 lost their lives.
There wasn't and isn't a city or town in any corner of this nation that didn't lose someone. Norwich is not alone in honoring those twelve men who called our city home and who gave their lives in that conflict, but I would suggest the Rose City is a bit unique in that, even in the hurly-burly of this Brave New World of the 21st Century, there are those who work hard to remember what many others seem sometimes to work hard to forget.
This Saturday afternoon at one on Chelsea Parade the Norwich Area Veterans Council (NAVC) honors those men and women who served in uniform during the three decades of military involvement in Southeast Asia, as well as their families and friends.
It’s not so much speeches being offered, and flags unfurling, or parading of the colors, though to some extent all of that will, and should, probably happen. Perhaps, more importantly is the opportunity we have on Saturday to pause from our everyday and to reflect on the selfless sacrifice and the burdens borne by those who fought and, in some cases, died so that we could enjoy a sunny Saturday with no more thought for their sacrifice than we have for the air that we breathe.
In addition to ceremonies at Chelsea Parade, our Freedom Bell, in the David Ruggles Courtyard just beyond the front steps of Norwich City Hall in the heart of downtown will toll twelve times to honor the memory and sacrifice of Robert Karl Cooley, Francis Charles Donohue, Thomas Edward Donovan, Joseph John Grillo, Jr., Robert Louis Howard, William Lincoln Marcy, James William McNeely, Harold Richard Nielsen, Robert Lee Pendergast, Aaron Lieb Rosenstreich, Alton Browning Sebastian, and David Vautour.
It will be the briefest of moments, especially in light of half a century, for simple and unadorned truths. Honoring those who made our today but in particular, our hope for each new day, possible with the sacrifice of all their yesterdays.