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Reflections on Veterans

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Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013 9:25 am

Town comes out to support locals

TEWKSBURY – Veterans, scouts, seniors, and families (even a few dogs) gathered on the town common Monday morning at 11 am to recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans.

As State Senator Barry Finegold pointed out during his remarks, unemployment among veterans is 10 percent, two and a half times greater than non-veterans.

“Freedom isn’t free,” said Finegold. “A big price is paid, paid by our veterans.”

That price includes high rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

“As a society, we have to do better,” added Finegold, stating that he is working on legislation that would offer tax incentives to businesses that hire veterans.

Despite a temperamental sound system, more than 150 residents focused their attention on the gazebo and the various speakers and performers of the morning.

Special Guest Air Force Captain Carmen Sowers gave the keynote address and focused thematically on the notion that ‘every veteran, past and present, has a story.’

She relayed the stories of veterans she knew, through her years, including that she and her older brother served in Iraq at the same time for a few months…worrying their mother. She talked about two WWII veterans that met at the WWII Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC – one recognizing the other for his unit having freed him from a prison camp. She relayed the story of another veteran, who served at a time when the nation was not at war, who felt that his service was somehow less-than.

“Every contribution counts,” said Sowers. “Everyone is critically important. To those who only served a few years, thank you.”

She, too, talked about the physical challenges faced by many wounded veterans returning home, including one woman in particular who is trekking across Antarctica in a quest for the South Pole with a group of vets that sustain life-changing physical and cognitive injuries as a result of their service.

She talked about the Medal of Honor recipient who, in a moment of extreme danger, thought first about his family he was compelled to protect.

Sowers acknowledged the families of veterans as well, for their sacrifices and support of those our nation asked to protect us.

Following the services, the TMHS band played the National Anthem, Taps, and the patriotic versus was sung by the Tewksbury Swinging Seniors and Arlene Wright. We talked to William “Woody” Ford, a 95-year-old Army veteran, who served, as his patch indicated at the Battle of the Bulge. Ford was an admissions clerk at the 107th Evac Hospital. During his time there, 21,201 patients were admitted in ten months and 9,212 surgeries were performed. Forty nurses were on staff, with forty officers, some in administration. And, interestingly, Ford has lived in Tewksbury for forty years, moving here because he fell in love with the “wonderful atmosphere” and “friendly people.”

He attends every Veterans Day service, every Memorial Day event, and he does it to honor those who served before him and those who served after him, but especially those guys that served with him. “Those guys were wonderful, they could overcome anything,” said Ford, and that’s how he says he knew the United States would win World War II.

Also participating in Monday’s service was VFW Chaplain Larry Sanford, and the TMHS band playing the national anthem, Taps, and a medley of U.S. Armed Forces songs, along with the Pledge of Allegiance which was led by local Boy and Girl Scouts. Veterans Agent Jim Williams organized the morning. Doug Sears, Vice-Chair of the Board of Selectmen, offered a few words on behalf of the town, and was joined by fellow board members David Gay and Jim Wentworth. Rep. Jim Miceli also attended the event, following his participation at the Wilmington ceremony that began at 11 am.

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