Veterans Day Observed

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Photo by Lester Smith

Dave Shute, Deputy Commander of the Suffield VFW, delivers his Veterans Day address.

This year’s Suffield observance of Veterans Day, like last year’s, was planned and carried out by the local VFW Post. As on Memorial Day, the Town’s new public address equipment, donated by the Suffield Woman’s Club and operated by Chris Matejec, sufficed nicely and provided contemporary patriotic music as a group of perhaps 50 or 60 veterans and other friends gathered at Veterans Park on a partly sunny morning.

David Shute, Deputy Commander of the Post, was the M. C. as well as the principal speaker. He welcomed the crowd, who stood at attention to hear Jordin Sparks’ modern rendering of the National Anthem. Suffield’s Municipal Veterans Representative, Gunnery Sgt. Fritz King, Ret., followed with an invocation.

In David Shute’s interesting address, he spoke of the names of Suffield veterans that appear on the five faces of the Veterans Memorial behind where he stood. For WWI, whose names are on the two bronze tablets from 1920 mounted on the west faces of the monument, he explained the traditional time, 11:11, whose numbers echo the date, November 11 in 1919, when WWI hostilities ended. That day became Armistice Day, the former name of the November 11 holiday. Then he called for that silent moment, at just about 11:11 a. m.

Next came Barrie Toothill, an experienced radio character actor from Windsor, who read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “Tommy,” emphatically teaching how soldiers in peacetime are often devalued and even reviled, but suddenly well respected and depended upon when they’re deeply needed: “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’ / But it’s ‘Saviour of ’is country,’ when the guns begin to shoot.”

And Seamus McGovern read the poem “The Minstrel Boy,” which some of his listeners recall as an old Irish ballad, with its key phrase, “The Minstrel Boy to the war has gone.” But this “Minstrel Boy” was a totally different piece by James Nack, a deeply thoughtful nineteenth century American poet who became deaf as a youth. A bit of online research reveals that the “Minstrel Boy” poem analyzes some key intellectual aspects of deafness, but in Suffield on Veterans Day, unprepared with any relevant context, this listener was puzzled by its content though impressed by its delivery.

Suffield VFW Commander William Moryto, Lt. Col., USMC, Ret., ended the ceremony with his closing comments. Interestingly, he pointed out that enlisted men swear an oath to obey their superior officers, but the oath taken by commissioned officers is to obey the U. S. Constitution — a significant and meaningful difference, especially in these troubled times. Col. Moryto went on to comment that a great deal has happened in the past year, and he spoke of the First Selectman’s creation of the Suffield Veterans Appreciation Committee and its recent subsidiary group, the Veterans Memorial Expansion Committee, which has not yet met.

A medley of contemporary patriotic music followed, then Col. Moryto invited all veterans present to come forward and gather at the base of the Memorial. The ceremony ended with the joint toast shouted by all: “To Valhalla!”

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