Veteran’s Day – 2019
It is my honor and privilege to address everyone on such a special day. I am here speaking to you exactly 101 years after World War 1 ended on the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour. It is our day to honor and show our thankfulness for the American veteran.
Soldiers have paraded through our town , in front of a grateful public, for many years. In September 1862 soldiers from the 128th NY Volunteer Regiment marched from their encampment, just up from Oakdale, down to the river where the steamship Oregon would take them south. Many would not return. In January 1919 – 100 years ago - veterans of the 1st World War paraded on Warren St. as they marched to their memorial dedication at the 7th street park- the same monument we decorated this morning. During World War II, Liberty Bond fund drives and parades came down Union Street just behind you. Some of the floats displayed wounded and decorated veterans, as to encourage giving to the war effort. For many, many years our community has provided soldiers and supported them.
But, I wonder if many people have taken the time to think about what we owe our veterans. We certainly owe them more than a ceremony or a parade. Take our city of Hudson for example…..a city not unlike many small post-industrial towns across our country. Here in Hudson we enjoy our shops and restaurants. Expression through arts and music is celebrated here. We actively and openly express our political debates and practice our religions, or no religion. Hudson is a city that is diverse and our opinions vary. But I am here to tell you today we would have none of these freedoms if they weren’t delivered to us, and set on our table by the American military veteran.
I think about the commitment of our veterans. Military families have been separated from their loved ones for long periods while they were training or deployed. Our service people have put their personal lives on hold as they fulfill their enlistment. Soldiers have suffered awful and debilitating injuries while serving this country. Young people, not much older than the band members from the high school we see today, lay buried in graves in lonely, cold, and desolate places that many have never heard of. Right now as I speak, an American soldier stands watch at one of the 800 US military stations all over the world. From barren Pacific Islands to freezing watchposts near the Arctic Circle. This total commitment by our veterans deserved our total respect. We must remember this.
Yet it is probably human nature to lose sight of our good fortune. It is probably human nature to drift away from civic responsibility and absolutely forget that all the things we have are not guaranteed. It seems we are at a time in our country where our dialogue has become harsher, we are losing (or forgetting), our respect for the law, or even each other. A veteran once said: “When the bullets are flying, you don’t care if the guy in your in foxhole is a Republican or Democrat.” We citizens should heed this advice. Let’s all take measure of the great freedoms we enjoy. We can have our differences, we should enjoy them, and relish them…but , at the end of the day we are here, together, side-by-side in this magnificent country. We should strive to be good citizens, be tolerant, and conduct ourselves within the law.
If we are going better appreciate our freedoms, why not start with our veterans? We have seen them in our local shops and stores. Why not buy them a coffee, or maybe just a word of thanks? I know many here have done just that. It is a good first step to regain our lost civility. It’s a good way to keep us grounded. As President 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.”
Our basic right to live free may have been divinely bestowed upon us, but it is our veterans who have paid the price for this great and awesome gift. Let us never forget this.
Photo contributed. Taken by Amanda Purcell