Honoring area veterans

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Chill breezes and the threat of rain didn't stop marchers and onlookers alike from joining in the commemoration of Veterans Day in Bennington and Manchester on Monday.

The Bennington parade, organized this year by American Legion Post 13, stepped off at 11 a.m. from the former middle school on Main Street.

Various local organizations, including the Vermont Veterans' Home, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 601, Bennington Rescue Squad, Bennington Fire Department and Bennington Rural Fire Department, participated, along with many local children.

As they passed Stewart's Shops on Main Street, some children sang "This Land Is Your Land," with members of the somewhat sparse crowd joining in.

"[It's] a nice thing to do for our veterans," said Erica Gregory of the parade. She said she attends the parade for her children — "any parade we can, we come."

The parade wound its way up North Street, stopping at the Vermont Veterans' Home for a ceremony and commemorative remarks.

"The weather held off, I guess," said Steve Greenslet, who welcomed the crowd. Ken Coonradt, chaplain at the veterans' home, opened with a prayer.

"We come to remember all our veterans," including those who have been killed, taken as prisoners of war or are missing in action, he said.

Wreaths were laid at two monuments on the Veterans Home grounds. One of the monuments is for veterans and one is for Gold Star mothers, those who have lost a child in combat.

After Mount Anthony Union High School student Chayla Greenslet sang the national anthem, Coonradt invited the audience to witness a ceremony the American Legion members perform every time they get together, to honor POWs and those MIA.

"We call your attention to this small table," Coonradt said, referencing a small table with a white tablecloth in front of his podium. "We join together to pay humble tribute."

Coonradt described the objects on the table and their symbolic significance, along with the table itself.

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The table is small, signifying the frailty of one prisoner against his or her captor.

The lemon on the table references the bitter fate of those being honored, and the glass is inverted.

"They are unable to toast with us at this time," Coonradt explained.

And, he said, the American flag symbolizes those who will never return.

Coonradt also spoke about the American flag, told from the point of view of the flag itself.

"This is the flag speaking to you today," he said. "Eternal vigilance is your price of freedom. Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth."

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The parade was one of multiple events in the area set to mark the federal holiday, including a ceremony at the Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site in Hoosick, New York.

Manchester ceremonies

Dozens gathered in Manchester at VFW Post 6471 on Depot Street for a short Veterans Day ceremony and luncheon.

Christopher Conte, the post's commander since May, praised veterans for selflessly placing themselves in harm's way "to protect our country and maintain our way of life."

Veterans have endured long periods of time away from their families, missed births of their children, lost limbs — and their lives, said Conte. The spouses of armed-service members, he added, have suffered disruptions to their own careers and assumed a disproportionate share of child-rearing responsibilities.

Members of the public who want to show their support may do so by hiring veterans, visiting a VA hospital or donating to charity, said Cole, who also spoke of the importance of ending homelessness among veterans.

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More than 100 veterans in Vermont were experiencing homelessness in January 2018, according to data made available by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Two Maple Street School students read aloud texts selected for Monday's event.

Grayson Peters, 12, of Boy Scout Troop 332, read the lyrics to "Ragged Old Flag," a song from Johnny Cash's 1974 album of the same name.

Andrew Jacobs, 9, of Cub Scout Pack 333, read "In Flanders Field," a poem by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who served in World War I.

Conte, joined by Stephanie Casey, president of the VFW auxiliary, laid a wreath to honor deceased veterans.

Members of the Champlain Rifles, a Civil War reenactment group, performed a three-volley salute. The playing of "Taps" concluded the ceremony.

The event's crowd represented a "good ratio" of veterans and supporters, Cole said after the ceremony.

Charles Gaiotti, 87, of Danby, said events like the one held Monday help him stay connected with other Vermonters who served in the military.

"Without discipline and tradition this country cannot last," he said.

The celebration of Veterans Day dates back to Nov. 11. 1918, the day the United States signed the Armistice with Germany, ending World War I.

The next year, president Woodrow Wilson declared that Nov. 11, 1919 would be called Armistice Day. A congressional act in 1938 declared Nov. 11 as a legal holiday, Armistice Day, each year. In 1954, under President Dwight Eisenhower, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day, and the holiday changed to honor American veterans of all wars.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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