Students and local, state officials honor Wareham veterans
A crowd gathered at the Dudley Brown Onset VFW to celebrate, honor and thank veterans at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
“This is a great moment to take pause,” said Onset VFW Commander Benjamin Baptiste as he welcomed ceremony attendees. “Let’s not just pause on Veterans Day. Let’s remember this every day — the sacrifices that our folks in the military have done for this country, have done for your freedom, and those that have fallen as a result of that. Let’s never forget. Let’s make this an everyday event.”
The ceremony, which was sponsored by the Wareham Veterans Council, featured remarks by a number of local and state officials including Baptiste, Wareham Veterans Council member Paul Geigle, Select Board member Alan Slavin, Rep. Susan Williams-Gifford and Sen. Marc Pacheco. Veteran Steve Ruiz sang the national anthem and a rendition of Let There Be Peace on Earth.
Williams-Gifford emphasized the legislature’s bipartisan efforts to support veterans. She added that those who haven’t served owe a “debt of gratitude” to veterans that can never be fully repaid.
“There are ways that all of us can support those who bear the physical, emotional and psychological scars of war,” Williams-Gifford said. “It’s important that we get to know them and ensure that they know that we are here for them — especially during this time of social distancing and isolation.”
Sen. Marc Pacheco’s speech focused on the state legislature’s recent efforts to use American Rescue Plan Act money to fund services that will benefit veterans.
“We authorized more than $500 million to be set aside for veterans services here in the Commonwealth — in addition to what we have authorized in the past — to make sure that the housing needs are met,” he said.
Col. Matt Stanton — who teaches Junior ROTC and classes on American government and global politics — introduced many of the speakers during the ceremony and also shared words of his own. He thanked the Onset VFW for hosting the event and praised the students in attendance, noting that they chose to spend a day off from school honoring veterans.
Stanton recognized the newest members of the Wareham Veterans Council, Cpl. Ryan Langlois and Master Sgt. Jesse Walsh.
“It is so nice to get some new men that join the Wareham Veterans Council, and they’re on the younger side,” Stanton said with a laugh. “We’re getting an infusion of young blood and we really do appreciate your service to the veterans of Wareham and the town.”
Two Wareham students spoke at the event.
Caleb Lincoln — an eighth grader who won the Patriotic Pen essay contest — was out sick, but Robert Jones, another eighth grader, stepped up to share Lincoln’s winning speech with the audience.
Lincoln was tasked with answering the question, “How can I be a good American?” His speech encouraged people to show three main traits: respect, patriotism and generosity.
Amaya Anderson, a senior and Voice of Democracy speech winner, also read her winning speech on the subject of “America: Where do we go from here?”
She highlighted several large, structural problems in American society and government, citing a number of statistics about the U.S. having high rates of illegal drug use, car theft and incarceration, among others. She pointed out that the U.S. spends more on its defense budget than a significant number of other countries combined. But much of that money goes directly to private contractors instead of the troops and veterans, she said.
“It is time to shift our focus,” she said. “It is time to fund our people — fund our military directly. And especially our veterans. And put our expenditures toward education and community... An investment in the people is an investment in the future.”
After the ceremony, the VFW Auxillary offered a free luncheon for attendees.
The Veterans Day event at 4 Gibbs Ball Park Rd. also featured a static display of military and first responder vehicles. Stanton thanked the 1st of the 182nd infantry regiment for the humvees they contributed to the display. He also thanked the Wareham Police Department and Wareham and Onset fire districts for their contributions.