Veterans Day Ceremony
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, veterans and citizens gathered at Onset Veteran of Foreign Wars Post to honor the service and sacrifice of the nation’s military.
The ceremony started with a speech by Patrick Tropeano, the Chair of the Board of Selectmen, in which he noted that unlike many people, veterans never have to question whether they made a difference in the world.
“They are important to this country. We all know that because we all know how fragile our freedom is,” said Tropeano. “And without them, I wouldn't be up here standing, talking today, you wouldn't be here honoring our veterans and this whole country would be in serious trouble.”
Skip Sarnelli, the chairman of the Wareham Veterans Council, explained that Veterans Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 because it is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I in 1919. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.
“That is why we celebrate Veterans Day on the 11th of November. There is no other day when we can celebrate,” said Sarnelli.
Rep. Susan Gifford spoke, and informed the audience that last week the House of Representatives approved a memorial to Deborah Sampson in the Statehouse. Sampson was a Massachusetts native who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
According to Gifford, over the course of her service, Sampson sustained injuries including a gash to her forehead from a sword and a gunshot wound to the thigh. For the latter, she removed the bullet herself in an attempt to keep her gender a secret. She later fell seriously ill and was hospitalized, which resulted in her identity being discovered.
On Oct. 23 of 1783, Sampson received an honorable discharge and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for her service in the continental army.
“Sampson is the official heroine of the state of Massachusetts,” said Gifford. “Sampson’s story is not widely known, but it deserves to be told so that Massachusetts residents can have a better understanding of the role that women have played throughout our nation’s founding and their contribution throughout our country’s history.”
Gifford also shared news of a program to help veterans and current service members who are attending college. The House of Representatives also approved a continuing education program at the UMass Medical School which would teach higher-education counselors about conditions and stressors related to military deployment, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use, stressors related to deployment cycles, and the psychological impacts of military culture.
Furthermore, the bill requires all counselors in Massachusetts public colleges and universities to complete training that will help them recognize the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among students who are veterans.
“We own a debt of gratitude that we can never repay but we will never stop trying,” said Gifford.
Col. Matt Stanton of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps also praised veterans’ family members, saying that “they sacrifice so much,” both while the service members are abroad, at home in training, and when they come back to reintegrate into society, noting “we know how much of a struggle that can be at times.”
The ceremony was concluded by two Wareham High School students presenting their winning essays from the “Patriot's Pen” and “Voice of Democracy” contests. In their writings, students explained what makes America great.
Emerson Kearns, an eighth grader, said Americans have “many opportunities that many other countries lack,” including fair voting, all-inclusive schooling, and many supportive systems such welfare for those who “cannot afford a roof over their heads” and food stamps “for those who cannot have food in their stomach.”
Carlisle Beach, a junior at Wareham High School, said that three core attributes make America great: people, military and economic power and freedom.
“Quoting the legendary words of John Dickinson, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ If we really want to keep America great, we need to keep caring for our fellow men, sacrifice for the greater good, and stand as one, as the United States of America,” said Beach.