Freedom, truly, is not free
|Plymouth Elementary School students show their thanks to the local veterans who attended last week’s Veterans Day observance with high fives as they make their way back into the building. (Brendan Berube) (click for larger version)|
November 17, 2010REGION — It was sunny and unseasonably warm last Thursday for Plymouth's annual Veteran's Day Parade, led by the 237th Army Military Police Company of Plymouth, elected officials, and a full contingent of Plymouth area Veterans, accompanied by the stirring sounds of bagpipes, followed by Cub Scout Pack #56, the Girl Scouts, a contingent from Plymouth Elementary School, and the always popular Baker Valley Band.
At the conclusion of the parade, Plymouth Select Board Chair Valerie Scarborough welcomed a large crowd to the annual Veteran's Day Observance at the Town Hall, which featured, remarks by New Hampshire state Sen. Deborah Reynolds, a reading of original poetry by Plymouth poet,Kate Donahue, and a 21-gun salute.
Chaplain Leonard Sawyer gave the invocation.
Scarborough introduced keynote speaker Reynolds, gratefully acknowledging the Senator for her unflagging support and advocacy for New Hampshire Veterans.
"On behalf of all of us in state government, we thank all veterans and their families for their incredible service and sacrifice," said Reynolds. "For 235 years, you have answered the call to defend freedom, here and around the world. From the frozen hollows of Valley Forge to the blazing heat of Iraq and Afghanistan, our fighting men and women remind us that freedom, truly, is not free."
Echoing the theme introduced by Sawyer, Reynolds went on to say that it is incumbent upon all Americans to make certain that they care for the country's "returning heroes" and support the many organizations that, on a daily basis, help to provides services to veterans.
"We honor our veterans by working together to support them once they have returned to us," said Reynolds. "We honor our newest veterans, just as we have their comrades before them. Let us be vigilant in defending our heroes, just as they have been vigilant in defending us."
The debt that Americans owe to their fighting men and women was also on the minds of those who gathered near the war memorial in Bristol's Central Square Thursday to honor loved ones lost in past wars or currently stationed half a world away.
In a speech read aloud by members of Bristol's American Legion post, national Legion Commander Jimmie Foster called on Legion members and civilians throughout the country to show their appreciation for returning veterans any way they can, whether it be by welcoming troops home from deployment or volunteering at a VA hospital.
"Nineteenth Century British philosopher John Stuart Mill summed up the necessity of this special group of people when he wrote: 'War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight,
nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself,'" Foster wrote in his speech.
"Mill had it right," he added. "Fortunately for all of us, America has been blessed throughout its history by many such men and women … God bless America, and God bless our veterans."
Students at Plymouth Elementary School paid their respects to local war veterans, and to those currently serving and the loved ones they have left behind, during an emotional ceremony held Wednesday morning.
Jennifer Williams, whose son attends PES and whose husband is currently deployed overseas with the National Guard, said she was grateful to see the community standing behind its servicemen.
"I see America standing tall and strong and proud behind her servicemen and women," she said. "What an amazing statement that is, that though we may not always agree with the decision to go to war, we, as Americans, support our troops abroad and at home.
"It makes all the difference in the world to a military family when we feel the support of our communities," she added. "Nowhere has this been more evident than here in my new home of Plymouth. Some of you may know my son … and I am sure he would agree that this is the best place to live, hands down."
The local veterans invited to the PES ceremony, who were showered with cards of thanks and red, white, and blue stars by the students who filed past them to shake hands on their way back into the building, were inclined to agree.