Friday, November 15, 2013

Veteran's honor those present and those who have passed - By Rob McClure

G.K. Chesterton once wrote: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die." A fitting quote on a day set aside to honor the sacrifice and commitment routinely asked of our troops.
Monday, Nov 11th, two local veteran organizations, VFW Post 10643 and American Legion Post 148 of Windham, hosted a Veterans Honoring Veterans Program at the Windham Veterans Center. The event was billed as a gathering of both local veterans as well as the general public, who were invited to attend as an opportunity to honor those who are serving and for those who have served in defense of our Country. 
Veterans and the public were welcomed as Boy Scout Troop 805 members presented colors, which was quickly followed by a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem by the Windham Chamber Singers. The introduction was followed by a heartfelt thanks to all the troops who had just been deployed to provide relief in the Philippines. 

The crowd of nearly 300 people filled the room to capacity. All five branches of the US military were represented: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, all in neatly pressed full dress uniforms, garnished with ribbons and medals. Patriotism was running high. Throughout the event, several speakers were overcome with emotion.

Commander Roger Timmons presented awards to this year’s winners of the Patriot’s Pen Essay. Each winner received a cash award and personally recited their work to the audience. The winners were: Payton White, Holden Anderson, Megan Joy and Lauren Clark. Anne Libby, a senior at Windham High School, won the Voice of Democracy contest. 

Seated at the main table as honored guests were Senator Gary Plummer, Representative Jane Pringle, Representative Thomas Tyler, councilor Dennis Welch, councilor David Nadeau and General William Begert.
Keynote speaker General Bergert, never talked about his credentials, but he flew more than 300 combat missions over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War. He has logged more than 875 hours of combat earning him two Legion of Merit medals, two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and twelve Air medals. 

Bergert praised and thanked the members of our armed forces as he spoke about each conflict beginning with the First World War. “During those times, our soldiers had no idea when they would return home. They weren’t signing up for six months, not even a one or two year tour, they were committed until victory,” said Bergert. “Look at what our troops are doing today, at this moment. Providing relief, food and medicine to the Philippines. These humanitarian actions are happening today because of our troops readiness. The Philippine people may not have another week.” Bergert ended on a note that troop readiness must not be overlooked or taken for granted.

The Windham Chamber Singers performed another song which was followed by the Chaplains final prayer. The program ended on a gracious note as the crowd was led outside to the Memorial Garden to dedicate the ashes of deceased veterans Ralph Johnson and Barry Lombard. The outside ceremony included a granite bench dedication in memory of veteran Harold Lewis. Finally, the ceremonies concluded with a memorial garden stone dedication to MIA/POWs and Scout Dean Preston’s rendition of Taps played on his trumpet. Guests were invited back in for closing refreshments, courtesy of Dinah Aldrich.

… And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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