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Ceremony conveys honor for veterans

NORTH CANAAN — By the time the crowds gathered for the parade and service at the Doughboy Monument, many veterans had been observing Memorial Day for hours, visiting 12 cemeteries and a nursing home from the early morning hours.The fast-paced tour of graveside flag ceremonies was completed just in time to join the parade. Smiling faces and children waving flags provided the uplift they needed at that point.As the parade reached the Doughboy, the crowd seated on the hillside rose and gathered close, surrounding the veterans, a color guard, the school band. The national anthem, the expected words to honor those who served and died for our country, the three-gun salute — the routine of Memorial Day that many have come to know so well is vitally important.At the wreath-laden monument, where every effort has been made to include everyone from North Canaan who died in service to their country from its earliest days, Navy veteran Thomas Gailes introduced the VIPs.First Selectman Douglas Humes spoke of his uncle, veteran Henry Humes, who would say no more than, “War was a terrible experience, but necessary for freedom.”It was only from his grandfather that he found out that Uncle Henry, a mail carrier here, played a vital role in World War II as a motorcycle messenger.Gailes announced that serviceman Mike Hester recently completed duty in Afghanistan, and was sent to Kuwait, asking for wishes that he return home safely.Lt. Col. Kirk Harrington, retired, who recently moved to Falls Village and is the new commanding officer of the local VFW post, was lauded for his efforts to renovate the post. His goal is to create an environment that not only welcomes veterans but the community as well, in part to help with the acclimation process.“The number of service men and women, who served from October 2001 to now is more than that of World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War combined,” Harrington said. “As they return, it is important to embrace them, find them jobs and get them reacclimated to their community.”Army Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, on active duty and a new VFW member here, was among the first on the ground in Afghanistan, and Monday’s inspired guest speaker.He spoke of the day’s roots in the Civil War, when freed slaves first decorated the graves of soldiers who fought for their emancipation, and it was called Decoration Day.“Our rise as a nation made war a dreaded but necessary conflict as we strived to protect all that we built.”Amerine called for a recognition of the military not as a separate entity. “The military is sometimes referred to as a warrior class, but it is not a separate part of society. It was built by the people for the people. They are not brothers and sisters in arms, but brothers and sisters to us all. Our Armed Forces go wherever they are ordered, never breaking faith with the countrymen who sent them.”

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