Citizens Come Together To Thank Veterans

By: Alan Pollock

Residents came together outside the Chatham Community Center last Thursday for Veterans Day observances, the first in-person gathering for that purpose since the start of the pandemic. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

 

CHATHAM — Kept apart by the pandemic last year, residents came together again for last week’s Veterans Day observances.

Retired army Chief Warrant Officer Robert Franz convened the service in front of the town’s World War I memorial at the community center. Gesturing up at the American flag above, Franz read from a 1917 speech by President Woodrow Wilson, who observed that the flag is an emblem of the nation’s unity, power and purpose.

“It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us,” Franz said.

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Boy Scouts Skyler Baker and Leo Gelinas, the assembly sang the national anthem. Franz reminded attendees that unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day honors all past and present members of the military.

“Today is a day to thank living veterans,” he said. Whether they were in the military during peace or wartime, veterans are “united by a legacy of service and sacrifice.”

Acknowledging Veterans Day’s origin as Armistice Day, Franz invoked General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who thanked the troops under his command on the Western Front, saying, “their devotion, their valor and their sacrifice will live forever in the hearts of their grateful countrymen.”

Together, members of the select board, Town Manager Jill Goldsmith and veteran Jo-Ann Sprague read John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” and placed a bouquet of poppies at the memorial.

The assembly then gave applause to the active duty servicemen and women in the audience, and offered its thanks to those who were prisoners of war or who remain missing in action. Piper Sarah Marchio played “Amazing Grace,” and the assembly ended the observance by singing a verse of “God Bless America.”