ORLEANS - Michael Mansfield might not be a household name, but for State Rep. Tim Whelan the nation's longest serving senate majority leader embodied what it was to be a veteran.
From his time as a congressman and senator representing the state of Montana to his long tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Japan and his integral role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mansfield's credentials were many. But most telling for Whelan, R-Brewster, is the inscription on Mansfield's gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Michael Joseph Mansfield," it reads. "Pvt., US Marine Corps, March 16, 1903 Oct. 5, 2001"
"That, my friends, that is the humility of our veteran community," said Whelan, himself a Marine Corps veteran and retired state police sergeant.
Residents, local and state officials and veterans gathered at Academy Place last Thursday morning in honor of Veterans Day.
Brigadier General Jimmy Dishner acknowledged the respect and gratitude Orleans residents have shown the veteran community over the years, recalling a past Veterans Day ceremony in town that was held in the rain.
"The number of people here today is the same as it was then," he said. "That says a lot for Orleans and our community."
There was hope expressed Thursday for a future without war or conflict. But Orleans resident and veteran Ron Conte said the path toward peace starts not with the military, but with ourselves.
"War exists in all of us," he said. "We hate our neighbors. We hate our politicians. The great Mohandas Gandhi said 'When we find peace in our heart, we will find peace on Earth.'"
State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, said while Massachusetts leads the nation in terms of veterans support, there's still "more that we can do, and more that we must do," citing the dozens of veterans who died in state care at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home due to COVID-19 during the pandemic.
"They never gave up on us," she said. "They never do give up on us, and we clearly should never give up on them."
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is recognized annually as a time of remembrance for those who serve or have served. But Conte said veterans should be recognized everyday.
"When you see a veteran, especially a World War II veteran, in a restaurant, shake his hand. He'll be very happy."
Email Ryan Bray at email@example.com