VETERANS who spoke at the Nov. 11 ceremony at the Wright Museum last Sunday were (l-r): James Collins, Finance officer of American Legion Post 18; Commander Michael Bowen, U.S. Navy Reserve; and Captain Bernard Rhatigan, U.S. Army, Retired. (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
November 15, 2012WOLFEBORO — The absence of Post Commander Harold Chamberlin due to illness did not go unnoticed at the American Legion Harriman-Hale Post 18 Veteran's Day ceremony held this past Sunday morning, Nov. 11 at the Wright Museum.
Well-known in town for organizing and heading such events, Chamberlin left the few Legion members in attendance with big shoes to fill as they learned that also missing that morning would be planned speaker Sheriff Chris Connelly whose responsibilities pulled him at the last minute in another direction.
With little time to spare Legion member James Collins took the helm and steered the group into an impromptu, heartfelt service.
The ceremony began with a brief, but succinct prayer led by the acting Chaplin who proclaimed, "Thank God for all the veterans… and the people who stood behind them when in need. God bless them and God rest their souls."
Collins himself spoke of Armistice Day as a day, "which is very close to the American Legion's heart and mission. Not a day of mourning, but a day of celebration and honor."
Since 1918 when a ceasefire ended WWI on Nov. 11, Collins said Veterans Day has become "an opportunity for the United States, as both a Nation and its citizens, to praise and honor [its] veterans…"
He reminded the small group of veterans and their families and public that in addition to those lives that were lost in battle, "another group that we do not hear enough about" should be remembered as well.
These are the living veterans, he said, whose love of country still endures long after they've stopped wearing their military uniform and their service application has expired.
Commander Michael Bowen, Navy Medical Officer, and Captain Bernard Rhatigan who served in the Army for 24 years, were both invited to speak and easily told of their own experiences in the service and profound appreciation of those who've served.
Bowen, who reenlisted in 2010 after 16 years of civilian life, said that while he hadn't truly been able to pin a name on his reasons for wanting to rejoin before, after looking at the crowd in front of him he realized why. He asked everyone who had ever worn the uniform to stand and said, "I've realized I couldn't give it a name, not because there is no name for why I rejoined, but because there are many, many names: your names."
He spoke of the dangers today's soldiers face and consequently some of the advancements he's seen in the medical field since his return. Pleased with both the medical staffs' wherewithal and skills and the soldiers' positive outlook Bowen said he couldn't be more proud.
"We have an amazing military."
In terms of celebrating the individual soldiers within it, he said, "Remember that everyone who has ever worn the uniform has written a blank check to Uncle Sam payable in any amount up to and including his life," regardless of whether or not they ever saw a day of combat.
Captain Rhatigan proudly spoke of his family heritage and its strong presence in the American military dating all the way back to the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Though some family members died in combat or as a result of battle, he said his family was proud of the service that they have given to the country.
Now with two grown children of his own, who've both served he said, "I'm looking forward to the day when some of my grand kids call on me and say, 'Pou, come down and swear me in.'"
Collins closed the ceremony by challenging everyone to say "thank you" to a veteran when they meet one and reminding the group that there are many untold stories of veterans in Wolfeboro alone.
"We've got families that are currently third generation in the military and one whose fourth generation member just got sworn in last month."
Also missed at the service by his friends and fellow Legion members was the late Jeff Adjutant of Wolfeboro, a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and was later a sergeant of the N.H. National Guard.
Coverage of this ceremony can be viewed in full at http://wolfeborocommunitytelevision.com.