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Archive for the ‘hero worship’ Category

MEMORIAL DAY 2015
May 25, 2015

Hello all and thank you for being here on a day that is not only a holiday but a holy day to those of us that are touched by the deep, searing meaning of this ceremony.

There are few occasions that I feel more honored to speak about as Mayor. I am called upon once a year to voice the anguish and gratitude our city feels, for so many of our families have experienced loss that is inexplicably sad.

Walls of granite across the land are etched with the names of young men and women that have given their lives – their promise and their futures – to our community and nation. The inscriptions are distantly cold, and can never speak to the marvelous lives that once coursed with flushed faces, laughter and intention.

The thought of this enormous loss is so daunting.

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The concrete finality of such loss breaks my heart and silences my muse. Waves of conflicts have washed over our nation, each surge pulling away those we love like glittering specks of sand tossed into the mirth of motion and then gone to a vast emptiness.

This reality overwhelms me every year. I think of mothers and fathers fearfully sending these children off to the military with pride and a sense of powerlessness that must be so difficult, but is nothing compared to the few that receive a knock on the door revealing a crisp, uniformed officer delivering news that ends all hope.

I die a little bit knowing each name on a memorial comes with a similar pronouncement and aftermath.

So, every year, I struggle for words. I stew for days with thoughts of patriotism, service, community and the terror that is bound up in the essence of this day. I think of our blessed way of life in the United States of America – of our abundance, joy and freedom and feel quite lost. I worry that I cannot adequately express our communal feelings…
So, I will start with our proud soldiers. It is because of our military that we are afforded peace. We are afforded personal freedoms and ease that allows us to actually ignore the privileges that others are fighting and dying for around the globe. We have access to food, healthcare and education. We can vote, or not. We can eat well, or not. We can thrive, or not. We can worship God or the devil or a light bulb, or not. We can even work or not, though I truly believe most people would prefer to earn a living than accept a handout. Americans are inherently noble people.

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I mulled this all over while at a bonfire the night before last. My friends and family gathered in a circle as warm as the pyre that drew us to its heat. A cooler of cold beer opened and closed while young children ran outside the ring of chairs. Young adults, so recently boys and girls, laughed lightly and courted in the flickering shadows of the periphery. We seated parents looked on with amusement and nostalgia, and then would gaze into the mysterious living thing that fire is.

We watched as logs were tossed into the coals and a burst of embers would explode into the night to drift upward and disappear into the black. Our heads tilted back on our chairs as we fixed our eyes on the speckled canopy of darkness.

I thought each hot, orange ember must certainly take its place amongst its far sisters, the stars, transported from this temporal reality to the sparkling realm of timeless light. I like to think that these tiny fragments that grace the sky are the ever-present evidence of the beauty of souls that are lost to us. Souls dance their way to the stars like embers and in the 300 years that we have been a sovereign nation, 1.1 million soldiers have filled the night sky.

For me, a woman of a certain age and temperament that does NOT believe in the devil or the omnipotent power of a light bulb, God has given us these stars as a sign that there is order, permanence and meaning in our lives that surpasses the inexplicable tragedies of this existence.

And I think it must be this faith that sustains us through violence, poverty and war. It must be this faith that gives young men courage to break away from the comforts of home. It must be faith that allows a mother a final kiss before deployment and it MUST be faith that gives a husband, wife or child the strength to bear a triangular flag beside a casket, the white stars on a field of blue held as closely as breath and tears.

These were my fireside thoughts the other night. I expressed them tearfully to my friend, John. We both stared in silence at the flames and then he turned to me and said, “Ann, it’s all true. This is so horribly sad. But there is this too: each soldier had given meaning to his or her life. They have served our country with dignity. They tried to carry democracy to a world that thirsts for our way of life. They went with selfless obedience to keep our county safe and free. The meaning of their lives is as vast and great as the sky above us.”

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We both went silent again. I think we both were crying. John is so right.

Please remember the gift of each one of those stars when you pledge allegiance to our flag and when staring quietly up at a haunted, star-filled sky. That magnificent sky is filled with love.

Thank you to the fine veterans that have served and to those that are still active today.

Thank you again to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event again, as you do every year. Amsterdam is grateful for your continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well. And lastly, thank you to God, for planting us all in the soil of this great nation where such freedom and sacrifice may be reverently celebrated.

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In memory of my friend: Robert B. Quick
February 27, 2015

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Betty called.

Betty called with terrible news.

The man she loved, the man she forged a formidable partnership with, the man she shared quiet moments with and the man that she had burned for

was suddenly and inexplicably

gone.

Betty called, and through her sobs and confusion, I slowly began to understand her anguish and this sudden rush of loss that is not meant to be understood because in one fleeting moment, the world, our world of neatly packaged relationships and routines, comprised of glances and smiles and words and touch

was forever altered without warning.

I looked out at the snow and thought even its whiteness carried a new emptiness.

Bob Quick, Betty’s husband, Kelly and Kevin’s dad, let’s face it, Bill’s dad too, and our friend, had vanished. And sudden, searing loss is not easily gotten through. I know because my father vanished just as quickly. It’s just terrible.

But there are blessings in every passing and most importantly, we shared in the life of this wonderful man and all have been touched by his exquisite and lasting love. Indeed, we are gathered here in that common bond. We have come together to celebrate the life of a loving and generous friend that has given so much to each of us, and his community.

We should be clear on this point, Bob would not have wanted us to gather in grief, though undoubtedly we cannot avoid it. Bob would have wanted us to commemorate his time with us with smiles and sharing and love for one another.

Really, he’d like us all to have a good, strong drink with good food in a nice place with an abundance of laughter. And so we shall after this service, most certainly if Betty has anything to do with this!

It’s daunting to talk about Bob, especially when I look out at a sea of faces that knew him better and loved him so long and so well but this is Bob’s gift to me: that I may paint this day with my impressions of him and hopefully touch upon qualities that spark recognition in each of you.

Bob entered my life while I was the Director at the museum. He was drawn to the museum because the kinetic star he was attached to named Betty had developed a passion for the heritage of this community and had discovered this quirky little repository of history hidden in Guy Park Avenue School. I’m fairly certain the both of us bemused Bob, but I’m just glad that they both turned up and never turned back. Bob watched our commitment, hard work, and lunacy and he liked it. He’d often shake his head with a smile and ask me why I’d ever put myself through so much torment for the not-for-profit life.

Flash forward ten years and he was asking me why I’d put myself through another election. The truth is, he knew why and he believed in me. More importantly, he believed in this city. His faith in this little city never wavered, though I saw him shake his fist as well as his head at times.

Amsterdam’s finest qualities mesh family, heritage, and complicated webs of connectedness that, really, those of us that did not grow up here cannot fathom. Perpetual visitors like me sometimes shake my head and smile. Bob was born and raised here and he loved this city as much as he distained everything that holds it back. He always understood its untouched potential and supported every effort to change its course.

I could go on and on about Bob’s contributions to this community, to the museum, hospital, Chamber, Liberty, Waterfront Foundation, United Way, sports teams, and countless others. This community has suffered a great loss. Because of Bob’s new absence, we are now called to fill that void for the city he loved.

Bob got his start in Amsterdam schools and made his lifelong friendships there with many of the men in this room. He loved these men when they were boys with skinned knees. He loved them through their first dates, through first jobs and first wives, through crushing loss and glittering nights on Florida’s coast. Bob cherished his friends and willingly shared his fortunes and fancy with gentle grace and sometimes great aplomb.

What a perfect counterpart to Betty, both being passionate, industrious, smart and generous to a fault. Both so elegant! Their parties were always perfectly orchestrated but comfortable and welcoming. And it was this gathering together that had always been their goal: to unite, to fest, to laugh and to share.

Indeed, I think Bob’s goal in building an empire was to provide for these times of camaraderie, which brings us to his professional life. This self-made man was extraordinarily accomplished.

Bob used his pragmatism, his strength and his intuition wisely. He took educated risks and surrounded himself with talented people. Because of his foresight, his business thrives today in Schenectady, Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX. His success is a wonderful tribute to his business acumen, but again, the success of his company was not his ultimate aim. It was the byproduct. His goal was to live life fully and fearlessly, and to live life WELL. Bob loved entertaining, sports, the arts, and traveling. He loved driving an expensive car while cranking the Supremes on the radio. He loved the sun. He followed it to Charlotte or Charleston or the Keys when it got too cold here.

Of course Bob decided not to come back on the coldest February in history! Look at all of this damned snow. He’s somewhere near the sun where it’s bright and beautiful and he’ll wait for us until we have the sense of timing to join him.

Bob sought the finer things out in life. It’s a lesson we must learn from this lovely man! Embrace your talents, your opportunities, and the glories this life affords you! Love your life!

Follow the lead of one that passed through this life so well: Coach. Volunteer. Travel. Invest. Play. Rest. Reflect.

Because that’s one of the things Betty pointed out that Bob was so aware of, be it when they’d retire quietly to their sitting room off of the bedroom at night or out by the pool on a warm summer evening. He’d turn to her and say, “I love my life.”

Period.

So love your family like Bob loved this complicated, boundlessly energetic wife.

Like Bob loved his daughter, Kelly and her daughters, Jillian and Lauren, find the space that is only yours, such as that between a daughter and her father, a relationship that weaves through giggles and tears to a time when you will trust another man enough to hand her over at the alter. Love your family steadfastly through all time and across miles. Maddie, just the mention of your name made him sparkle.

Love the family God gives you, your stepsons and in-laws. God blessed Bob with a son, Kevin, that he lost too early and a boy that he loved as a son. I know how deeply he cared for Bill as he spoke proudly of the confident, young man taking the wheel while he was out chartering new waters. We now see how prudent this transition had been and the company remains in good hands.

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Bob acted as a mentor and guide to so many of us in this room that we could probably get together after this service and launch a very successful business if we just take the advise he has given us over the years!

And we should all follow his lead by following his actions: by being kind and generous, by being loyal and courageous. Be fun loving. Be silly. Most of all cherish your gifts and be grateful that this great man touched your life.

We will miss you, Bob. Thank you so much for all that you have given us. We love you.

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Good Morning. I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor to speak on behalf of our city; to once again acknowledge how much we appreciate the men and women that have freely offered to serve this country we all love.
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Another year has come and gone since we last gathered on a crisp morning by our beautiful monument. The hours, days, weeks and months have been spent according to the demands of our daily lives – at work or at the doctor’s office, at a school function or social event, behind the wheel of our car or at the kitchen stove. Every day, we wake, dress, eat and blessedly sleep at day’s end. The seasons fall away from us like the leaves from these trees. We strive for financial stability, independence, and accomplishments both great and small. We engage with loved ones and peers in ways that are both mundane and incredibly poignant. We are afforded all of these instances of being because we live in a time of relative peace and some prosperity.

For the most part, we will finish this day fed and in our own bed, with a roof over our head and an opportunity to tackle tomorrow’s challenges as a new sun rises.

We are blessed.

This is the truth of our experience as civilians of a great and powerful nation – a country of promise – a country that has been heavily involved in wars and conflicts over its two hundred years of history. We have a way of living that is the pinnacle of comfort for others around the world.

Yes, we are blessed.

We are blessed because we have had the good fortune to have young men and women that have chosen to serve in the military, to defend our freedoms and provide us this unrivaled way of life that we have all benefited from.

Thank you, you men and women of the military, that have served us so well.

In thinking about this speech today, I was struck by the many reasons a young man or woman may choose this line of endeavor, to put aside the familiar and take up the mantle of a military uniform.

In times of peace, one can see the wonderful opportunities the military provides. They will leave high school and go off to boot camp, wet behind the ears, to find structure, purpose, schooling, travel, and a career. They will make friendships and associations that will survive a lifetime of what life will throw at them, and most of these bonds will outlast some jobs and marriages. It’s understandable why someone would choose this path.

It is so compelling that young people choose this endeavor in times of strife, yet again and again, the honorable call to action is bravely taken up. As long as men have gathered in villages to live communally, they have also stood together against oppression and fear. I am a child of the 60’s. I watched my grandparents and parents talk of the world wars, my father and uncle talk of the Korean War that left my uncle deaf in one ear and my father resolutely mute about his time of service, and saw kids from my neighborhood sent off to Vietnam.

I was too young then to understand the enormity of what they and the many families across this nation had experienced.

These young people, the kids we nursed, immunized, provided music lessons to and carted around to sporting events, left high school, still wet behind the ears, blew through boot camp and were deployed around the world to situations unlike any they had known before. After such a short time, our young recruits were charging the beach at Normandy, stumbling through cold, rough waters, an air assault and a barrage of bullets that would take 120,000 allied lives.
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Still green, they were deployed to the hot, humid and hostile jungles of Vietnam to walk waste deep in water, guns held over their heads, trying to avoid snakes, trip wires, gun fire and the relentless fear that has stayed with many for decades.

Still wet behind the ears, our boys and girls have been sent in heavy fatigues to the arid deserts of the middle east to track tyranny in the monotonous blowing sands and stinging heat that often soars well over 100 degrees, also fearing the anonymous attacks of guerilla warfare and land mines, only this time they face an enemy willing to strap a bomb to his or her chest and take out an entire section of city street.

With the advancements made in medical technologies, soldiers return with disabilities that they surely would not have survived in the past. Loss of limbs, head injuries and trauma are far too commonly born by our returning heroes. These young men and women have served us too well to be forgotten. We, the great nation that has been afforded so much in the way of serenity, have a responsibility to provide the ongoing support necessary to ensure that they may live lives that are full and fulfilled, as safe and stable and comfortable as any of us have come to expect. We must ensure that veterans are provided education and vocational opportunities, and jobs. We must ensure that no veteran goes homeless or without the medical provisions that will help them flourish once again.

To those of you that stand with us today as veterans, and those of you still in active service, I cannot understand the depth of your experience as soldiers but can, with great certainty, tell you that we people of this small community of Amsterdam are completely grateful for the gift of your time, talent, youth and commitment.

I’d like share the words of a mayor in another like community, Mayor Debbie Brinkman of Littleton, Colorado. We share her sentiment and gratitude:

“Since World War I, the United States of America’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have fought in ten battles:
• World War II
• Korean War
• Vietnam War
• Bay of Pigs
• Grenada
• Invasion of Panama
• The Persian Gulf
• Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Invasion of Afghanistan, and the
• Invasion of Iraq

We open our arms and our hearts and welcome them all home. They did not all come home alive, they did not all come home whole, many are not yet home, and we continue to send many back into harm’s way. The enormity of their sacrifice is beyond compare. So how do we dare to believe two words, eight letters is enough?

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

So, it isn’t enough to say it – we need to be it. Grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. The greatest prayer you can say is “Thank You.” Two words. Eight letters. But weighted with love, gratitude, humility and understanding.”

So, to each veteran that stands here today, under this heavy sky and waving flag, our words are not enough.
Know, as only a soldier can know, that you have our deepest respect, gratitude and love.
God bless.

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My commentary at the Wilmington Senior Center Lifetime Achievement Awards Celebration, Peg Tigue: 2014 Recipient of the David G. Menser Award.

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Peg Tigue


Good evening.

Thank you to the Wilmington Senior Center for allowing me a few moments to speak on behalf of a woman I love very much and, more importantly, to participate in a celebration of her lifetime of service to our community, state and nation. Please note the specifics of this service in the biography in your program because I am going to tackle this on a more personal level.

I am so proud of my mother.

Of course I am. We are all proud of our mothers!

Please, everyone raise a glass to the woman that brought you into this world, for the job of mother is not an easy one from the birth of a child until the job is done.

To mothers!

That said, I will tell you that my mother is of a special cut. She is smart, funny, infinitely energetic (which a few of you may have noticed) and she is as determined as she is elegant.

For all of you fans of astrology, my mother is a classic Taurus and unwaveringly displays the characteristics of her sign. If she puts her head down and starts pawing the ground, you’d better hope you’re not wearing red.

She has a sharp business sense and an undeniable capacity for organization. She thinks fast and acts accordingly. She is a natural-born leader.

She commands respect with her intellect, immense grace and smile. I think people would be surprised to know that she is somewhat shy but adheres to a philosophy we both share when having to enter a crowded room or difficult negotiation. We both mutter these words like a prayer before taking on such tasks:

“Put on your big girl panties and just DO it.”

And DO IT she does, whether it’s running a family business, building a tall ship, hunting down funding for a national museum or revitalizing a neighborhood.

My mother ceases on a dream and inspires others to do the same.

This is such an extraordinary quality, and a quality that I know her lifetime friend, Dave Menser, recognized and cherished. I’m sure he’s here today, raising a glass in toast and smiling with the angels. Right, Edie?

Again, I am so proud of my mother for all of these things and so much more, because my mother is a vastly complicated woman and I, like many others, have benefited from her gifts. I have especially received the gift of her strength.

My mother has experienced incomprehensible pain and loss and has risen from her difficulties, becoming one of the truly strongest souls I will ever know.

Her finest gift is this: I, and my brothers and sisters, have been given her love and devotion for all of these years. We are forever blessed.

So, without further ado, it is my distinct honor to be present for this award recognizing the exceptional achievements of my mother, Margaret Ann Tigue.

I can think of no one that is more deserving. I love you, Mom.

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MEMORIAL DAY 2014
May 26 • Veterans Field, Amsterdam, NY

Good morning all. I ask you to join me in a short exercise as we think about the meaning of Memorial Day.

Think of someone you’ve loved with all of your heart that has died. Choose one person that was your reason to live or your strongest support in this crazy, confusing life… that one someone that you still cannot live without that has died. They may be a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a close friend. Imagine as clearly as you can their smiling face.

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Think of all of the wonderful moments you shared… the laughter at the dining room table at Thanksgiving, the closeness you felt as children when you leapt together from rock to rock in a stream, the happiness you felt as you watched them stand in cap and gown for a graduation portrait, the gratitude you felt when they poured you a glass of milk because you were too small to manage, the understanding that passed between you as you accepted an engagement ring, the moments you spent together in silent reverie in a church pew, the harsh tears you shared when life was unbearable or angry…

Think about the last time you saw your loved one. That very last, irretrievable moment when you thought, “well, maybe this is it,” but deep in your heart, you couldn’t believe it. You gently held a bird-like hand at the bedside, you tousled someone’s already wild hair, you both stared off awkwardly into different directions, you noted how grown up he looked in that military uniform, you embraced her tightly in the hallway, you watched his headlights fade as he drove into the last bit of twilight before evening…

and then they were gone.

Think about how desperately you sought out the last remnants of their being… how you grabbed a shirt out of the laundry basket or a pillow off of the bed, and buried your face in it for a fleeting scent that would all too soon be forgotten… how you eyed the keys they left on the table or the sock by the bed as if they would insistently push back through the door to retrieve them… how you touched the hospital monitor to kick it back into rhythm… how you watched the clouds move across a sky suddenly imbued with a presence that was ripping your heart from its cage.

We all come to know mourning in ways that are small and terrible.

Think about how tenuous that memory of your loved one is… how everyday, color and realities sift from that image… how facial features and context breezily lift away in thin, transparent sheets… notice how blurred that face is in your memory and how difficult it becomes to hold on to the story of your time together because each day subtly subtracts remembrances without your knowing.

How at mercy we are to the evil thievery of time.

Days tick off of the calendar into weeks, then months, then years. We learn to live with muted recollection. We are stuck with photo albums that have frozen only fractions of a life that had been rich and tactile and deeply meaningful.

Now think of that loss in terms of the many, many souls we have lost to war. In fact, we have lost over 1.1 million in the three hundred years we have existed as a sovereign nation.

Think of that incredible loss to our hearts and to our country.

Our memories lift collectively from us like dandelion seeds on a light wind. They peel away until we stand before walls of lonely names without tether to the hearts that etched them there. The souls that wore these names and the uniforms of our country are gone forever, as are many of the loving people they belonged to.

It is the testament of each military monument, with names that have been scratched into stone that calls us all to the purpose of this day. They drive us as a community to never forget that each name held the magic of a life that we have lost forever. More importantly, each boy or girl that is memorialized on that monument took a selfless oath to serve our country.
This quote by Reverand Randolf Harrison McKim speaks to this selflessness and sacrifice perfectly: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

On this day, we must grieve for we have lost generations of loved ones.

But just as we must grieve, so too must we also celebrate the lives of those dear souls that have ensured our prosperity, commerce, comfort and freedom. They have given us a country that values equality, ingenuity, religious choice and free speech.

All too often, we walk or drive past these monuments without thought to the spectacular gift of our everyday lives, so it is fitting that we gather as one to give thanks for each and every brave individual, both living and dead, that have taken the oath to serve in our military.

Thank you, each of you here today that had passed through the rigors of boot camp, crisply saluted a superior officer, presented your weapon with precision, and marched as one body with your company. Thank you to those veterans that had served decades ago but still stand at attention when our national anthem is played. Thank you for tending to the graves of your fellows and never allowing us to forget our duty to those that have passed.

Thank you to the young men and women that still take up the oath and grace us with their protection at present. You continue a tradition that is proud and honorable.

Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event again, as you do every year. Amsterdam is grateful for your continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well.

And lastly, thank you to God, for planting us all in the soil of this great nation where such freedom and sacrifice may be reverently celebrated.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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So, God looked down at the City of Amsterdam and saw that we had amassed close to 200 volunteers for our litter pick up and decided to hold off on the rain as we had requested in our prayers. He turned off the faucet before dawn which gave the ground just enough time to be be manageable for our legions. Folks spread out in all directions and have gathered what may be our biggest load to date (we’ll find out on Monday when it is weighed at the transfer station.)

I’d like to thank the many individuals and organizations that came out strong for this day of service: St. Mary’s Healthcare, City of Amsterdam Democrats, Liberty, the Amsterdam Housing Authority, the Mental Health Association, Centro Civico, Target, AHS Track Team and W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng. This effort was a tremendous success from RT5W, Northampton, Union Street, to Locust Av, Kellog St, Church St, Grove St Slope, and East Main to the South Side, as well as all points in between!

The following are shots of the day.

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Hello all. Thank you for coming out on this chilly, gray morning. It’s not the most ideal weather for a gathering, so I especially appreciate your making the effort to come here today and pay tribute to our veterans. For my part of this ceremony, I’d like to tell you a story:

Once upon a time, I stood at the side of the road on Guy Park Avenue and watched the Amsterdam Veterans honor their comrades by walking a length of the city road to their WWI memorial. The day was brisk but beautiful. Clusters of my neighbors stood reverently, clasping their coats against a light wind with gloved hands, smiling and greeting folks they’d known their whole lives. Much like today, they were a mix of hats, scarves, and wool in the colors of autumn… gold, plumb, brown and rust… most were older folks and a few families brought together several generations of the same height, weight and hair pattern. They talked quietly with each other, noting the falling leaves, fleeting clouds, and onset of winter in the coming weeks.

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I held the hand of my little boy, Ian, who at the time had to have been about four or five years old. We were excited and happy to be at our first official parade in our partnership as mother and son. He was so young and perfect; a sprite with an immediate smile and mischievous glint in his eye. He could not imagine how deep my love for him was because, for a child, it is a given. He was born into the brilliant embers of my attention. He did not know of my long wait for him or my doubt that I’d ever be lucky enough to have a child. I gripped his mittened hand tightly as the procession started.

We watched as the veterans from wars long gone began to pass our station. A scattering of very elderly men that had survived the “War to End All Wars” and eight decades were driven in cars, still proudly wearing their dress caps, insignias, awards, badges and accoutrements. These men sat in stoic silence, weathered as the dried leaves, bearing witness to the time that had passed and memories that would soon be remembered only in books, instead of recounted person-to-person. They seemed to not notice the gathering around them. Their clouded eyes looked ahead in anticipation of their destination.

Men and a few women of WWII, who at the time were then in their late sixties and early seventies followed these vets. This was a larger group of soldiers than the first, still vital and dignified, survivors of a war of unthinkable brutality and loss. They wore, and still wear, their experiences with such pride. They had lived through a time of unsullied patriotism and vigorous optimism, when you could count on God, and County and your neighbor. The charm of that period lives on in the music of the 40’s… still lively with syncopated jazz riffs and sadly sweet, romantic ballads. Though their marching step was somewhat unpolished, they walked with a unity that can only come from the knowledge of their sure achievement in saving the world from tyranny.

Next came the men of the Korean War, men in their late-forties and early-fifties. This war is sadly referred to as the “Forgotten War.” These men walked with a solid gait, having persevered without the public accolades and attention of those that had served in the decade before or those that would come after. These soldiers walked with some ease and casually waved to the bystanders. As I watched, I understood that, had my father lived a longer life, he would have marched with this group. I squeezed my son’s hand and pointed out the beat of their feet on the pavement, and noted that my heart beat with that time.

The next wave of soldiers started to pass us. The Vietnam War Veterans were not much older than I, and I thought about my friends that had fought in that war. The times were so tumultuous and the decision to enter the military was more controversial than at any time that had preceded it in all of history. As well, the mechanisms of war were much more horrific and deadly. I thought of Kevin, a happy-go-lucky kid in our neighborhood that had come back from the sweltering humidity of Vietnam changed… more serious with an uncharacteristic edge in his demeanor. To my knowledge, he never spoke of his time there… not to his family and certainly not to us, his hometown friends. That he and others had returned to a nation that questioned the actions of these young men and women still haunts our days. These young soldiers made the commitment to serve our government without public reverence for their decision. That is a wound that must never be delivered again.

Contemporary men and women in service, marching crisply in unison, followed the Vets of the 60’s and 70’s. Some had already served in the Gulf and some could expect to be shipped to areas of conflict around the world at any time. They looked formidable in their desert combat uniforms, all tautly following command. I looked across the road at a mother anxiously scanning the unit for the unforgettable face of her child, and watched for the moment of recognition as she located the object of her love. Brimming with pride, she yelled out a name with joy and pointed rapidly so that her friends would not miss out on the gift of this moment. The realization of the sacrifice that she and her family had made was beginning to reach me like a scent carried lightly on a breeze.

The ROTC students from Amsterdam High School followed in step, their beautiful, unlined faces intent on their task. They lead younger children informally walking together from the boy scouts, girl scouts and, tying it all up at the end, the youngest Webelos and Brownies that may begin this march at age seven. Suddenly, the breath was pulled from my chest and the full impact of this parade of souls came to me. I stared incredulously down at the little boy at the end of my arm and could see the whole of this impossible offering.

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The oldest veteran to the youngest, silly sprout walks a path that tears our loved ones from the warmth of our hearth and sends them to the edge of the earth for the ideals our government is built on.

Regardless of politics, public furor, danger or exhaustion, our soldiers serve willingly, selflessly and courageously that we may continue to live in peace and prosperity. They enter into situations of loneliness, peril, boredom and chaos that others may have hope. Those that have marched in parades have returned to us. Remember also that others have not, or that they have returned to us broken and in need of our full support as a nation, as a community, as friends and as family.

THIS is what this day, Veterans Day, is all about.

Having grasped this concept, as desperately as I had held the hand of my son so long ago, let us all acknowledge that there can be no greater calling than that of a soldier and extend our deepest gratitude for the gifts that they have given so freely to us.

Thank you to the Veterans Commission for continuing this tradition and thank you with all of our hearts to each and every veteran gathered here today. God bless you and keep you, forever and always.

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