Norwalk marks Veterans Day

Nick Samodel, left, stands to be recognized as a veteran Tuesday in Norwalk Concert Hall.
Nick Samodel, left, stands to be recognized as a veteran Tuesday in Norwalk Concert Hall.
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The Norwalk Police honor guard fires a volley Tuesday to mark Veterans Day at City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk honored its “national treasures” Tuesday with the traditional rifle volley at the appointed time – think “11” – and gratitude expressed by multiple speakers in Concert Hall.

“What are we? Heroes? I look at us – all different sizes and shapes, different colors, different creeds, but we’re one, we’re veterans,” said Dan Carporale, American Legion Junior Vice Commander and chairman of the Norwalk Veterans Memorial Committee (NVMC), in the opening remarks to the Veterans Day program.

The program was attended by seniors who stood for applause when their military hymns were played as well as hundreds of uniformed teenagers enrolled in ROTC programs at Norwalk High and Brien McMahon High schools, filling the rear seats at Concert Hall and performing duties such as the color guard.

There was a highly anticipated moment – soloist Alison Faye hitting the high notes in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with accompaniment of the American Festival Band – and a touching moment, as Korean War veteran James Hegedus was awarded an honorary Norwalk High School diploma by Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

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Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera, left, gives Korean War veteran James Hegedus an honorary Norwalk High School degree during Tuesday’s Veterans Day ceremony in Concert Hall.

Hegedus earned a G.E.D. while serving in Korea in 1951, Rivera said. His wife reached out last summer and asked for the honor, saying it would mean a lot to him, Rivera said.

There were other honors: Mayor Harry Rilling announced that the late former Mayor Frank Esposito, who served in the Korean War as a Sergeant 1st Class in the U.S. Army, will be inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame next week. The Hall of Fame was created by Gov. Jodi Rell in 2005; the only other Norwalker inducted has been Douglas Bora, a World War II vet and recipient of the Silver Star.

Veterans Day harkens back to Armistice Day, a remembrance of the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. Tradition calls for a moment of silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, hence the date of the odd Tuesday holiday. The moment was marked by a rifle volley from the Norwalk Police honor guard.

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Capt. William Glass Jr., retired, speaks Tuesday in Concert Hall.

Before that, guest speaker Capt. William Glass Jr. ticked off statistics:

  • “Only” 1 percent of American citizens have put on military uniform
  • There are 19,600,000 veterans in the United States
  • There are 238,000 veterans in Connecticut; 15,000 are women
  • There are 90 veterans in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • There are 10 veterans in the U.S. Senate
  • This is the 100th anniversary of World War I
  • Two children of Civil War-era veterans still draw VA benefits
  • 184 children of children of widows of the Spanish-American War still receive VA compensation and pensions
  • Monday was 239th birthday of U.S. Marine Corps

Glass, who retired from the U.S. Navy in 2003, said veterans have fought and are still fighting the war against terrorism. But it’s also about conducting humanitarian missions, he said.

“Without our military what would be the plight of people suffering from Ebola in West Africa, or the typhoon victims in the Philippines? Or the hurricane victims in New Orleans? We must not forget that they are not just fighting for freedom but they are fighting to make a difference,” he said.

He called veterans “national treasures,” some of whom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, lost limbs or the effects of Agent Orange.

Shirley Sweet thanks veterans.
Shirley Sweet thanks veterans. Her late husband was a Bronze Star recipient and served in a bomb disposal unit in World War II, she said. “Nothing meant more to him” than the military, she said.

“These national treasures deserve our ongoing support and gratitude, not just a day’s worth of platitudes or discounts,” Glass said.

Rabbi Ron Fish struck a similar note in his benediction.

Fish listed locations that are more than just geography to veterans, including Iwo Jima, Gettysburg, Valley Forge and the burning of Norwalk.

“The men and women who put on the uniform of this nation depended upon the fellowship, the brotherhood, the sisterhood,” Fish said. The dependence upon one another was absolute and from their kinship burst forth a nation dedicated to one another. The glory they found in that battle field and in that sacrifice is met now in moments on the home front, in Veterans hospitals, on unemployment lines, to the shame of our nation, in homeless shelters, as veterans go unappreciated and overlooked. This nation has on each of us stepping forward, with gratitude to God for the blessings which are shed upon us and gratitude to one another for our common humanity and our brotherhood. Some of you will look around your Thanksgiving tables in a couple of weeks and see these people who know what brotherhood is, who have lived it, who have bled for it. For those who don’t have such an individual around your table, we take this moment to say thank you for being our brothers and sisters.”

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Gabrielle Layfayette, 4, looks at Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School ROTC members Tuesday in City Hall.
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A veteran stands for recognition Tuesday.

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Norwalk High School receives
Norwalk High School receives the Stew Leonard’s Trophy.


5 responses to “Norwalk marks Veterans Day”

  1. Suzanne

    My Aunt Grace, with whom I regularly speak, is a WWII veteran and she is my hero. She is thoughtful, really smart, still drives in town, is employed part time by an agency that does home care for seniors, is active in her community through volunteerism, has her own home and is traveling east for Christmas.

    Did I say she is 97?

    This remarkable woman, who remembers running through the streets of London during the bombing to save patients and get them to shelter, sees that experience as the pivotal one of her life.

    I love knowing her and love hearing all about it. She has been to the WWII memorial and was at the opening with pride. At the same time, she keeps up with current culture and is “in touch” with the daily news.

    She is the eldest Veteran in our family with several in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t agree with war as a way to solve the worlds problems, but those that do step up have secured our way of life, rather naive, really, when you consider we have not seen the conflicts that other countries have since the Civil War.

    All to say, let’s not take these people for granted whether you agree with the politicians’ goals or not.

  2. Oldtimer

    There is no way to adequately repay our veterans for the unconditional agreement each made to give up whatever it took, even their lives, if necessary, to protect our freedom. The way some were welcomed (or not) after Vietnam was shameful.
    We all wish there was a way to settle our differences with other countries, or groups like ISIS, with out war, but, sofar, we have not discovered it. We owe an impossible debt to our veterans, and we cannot ever forget it. The vets with PTSD (called shell shock after WW I) need our help with medical care and readjusting to civilian status and jobs.

    One day a year to honor veterans is just talk.

  3. Kathleen Montgomery

    Thanks, Suzanne, for sharing the story of your wonderful and remarkble Aunt Grace.

  4. Suzanne

    Oldtimer, When your loved ones have been to war, it is never “one day.” It is “everyday.” I had four brothers involved in the VietNam conflict (one was an aide worker.) Their experiences imprinted them for life – some may see how they act and what they do as strange. But, I would urge compassion and support.

    Likewise, my sister went to Iraq as a medic, one nephew worked in intelligence in country and one entered both Iraq and Afghanistan via aircraft carrier (or whatever they call them now!) Like my Aunt Grace, as I described above, their experiences will never leave them. One is still in the Navy while the other two have come home with PTSD (which I am not so sure people understand what that means) and are in treatment.

    This is the reality of those who “step up” and their families, not to be forgotten: it is said, one person goes to war, the entire family goes with them. Having lived through these people, my family, for a lifetime, I would say that is true.

  5. Karen Doyle Lyons

    Thank You for the beautiful article on the Veterans Day Ceremony. I ask the we honor or veterans and support them everyday. A thank you brings such a big smile when you stop a veteran.
    Stop by the Veterans Hall of Honor at Norwalk City Hall. Write a note that will be sent to our servicewomen and men.
    God bless them all. Freedom is not free.

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