Chatham Thanks Those Who Answered Call Of Duty

By: Alan Pollock

Boy Scout Christian Lapinski leads the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

CHATHAM On the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day, a grateful community gathered at the community center Saturday to thank the town's veterans.

“What does it mean to be a veteran?” asked retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert Franz. For his part, his service left “an indelible imprint on the soul,” and as a veteran, he said he views life differently. When he sees news reports of American troops in harm's way, Franz said he feels guilty to not be fighting alongside them. When a wife or mother is handed the flag of a fallen serviceman, it brings tears to his eyes. When he has trouble hearing, he wonders whether it's the normal product of aging, or the result of years firing a 50-caliber machine gun. And when Franz gets a paper poppy from a veteran, he can't bring himself to throw it out.

“Somehow, they seem sacred,” he said. “Veterans know the cost of peace first-hand.”

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was finance committee member Jo Ann Sprague, a former state lawmaker and a member of the Women's Army Corps since 1950. She said serving in the Army as a young woman not only introduced her to the man she would later marry, but formed her perspective on what it means to be a citizen.

“I learned to love our country greatly,” Sprague said. In a free society, there is no greater contribution a citizen can make “than to answer the call of duty,” she said. Sprague called on those at the commemoration to pledge not to forget the sacrifices made by veterans.

“We give you our love. We give you our respect. We give you our gratitude,” she said.