On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Easton and Monroe’s traditional Veterans Day ceremony commenced on the Stepney Green in Monroe. Local veterans, alongside members of the community, attended Thursday’s ceremony to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country.
The ceremony was officiated by Donald Rodgerson, commander of American Legion Charles L. Ruman Post 160 in Easton, and Victor Yanosy, commander of American Legion Sippin-Winspur Post 176 in Monroe.
“Veterans Day is the celebration of all the currently active and retired people who have not passed away,” said Yanosy. “We do this every year to celebrate our current veterans. It’s a combined ceremony with the post from Easton 160; they’re kind of a sister post to us. Actually their commander (Rodgerson) and I served in the Army reserve together, so we’ve known each other for quite a long time.”
The ceremony commenced promptly at 11 a.m., with an opening prayer given by the Rev. Kevin Merritt, senior pastor and minister of outreach and discipleship at Stepney Baptist Church. He offered a prayer of protection and gratitude. “We are expressing our gratitude as those who enjoy all the benefits of freedom, and a free country. As we all know, freedom isn’t free. It costs lives and it takes sacrifice,” he said.
The crowd bowed their heads in prayer as a series of car horns could also be heard in the background as passersby expressed their support for local veterans.
Rodgerson went on to share a “nice warm” story from his past with the audience. One night, while out to dinner with his wife, Rodgerson noticed a young gentleman in uniform dining with his girlfriend.
“Come to find out, through talking with the waitress, that this young man was going to be deployed the following day,” he said. “This was the last night that he was going to be with his girlfriend.” Rodgerson ensured the gentlemen’s tab was given to him.
“He was astounded that someone had picked up his tab,” said Rodergson. “Such a warm experience in my heart to see the expression on his face when the waitress went to give him a non-bill … I’ve been there, I’ve been in that spot … I will never ever forget that moment, and I’m sure he will never forget it,” he said.
First Selectman David Bindleglass, Monroe first Selectman Ken Kellogg, and State Rep. Tony Scott were all in attendance and each took turns addressing the crowd.
Bindleglass took to the podium to express his gratitude to each of the veterans for their service to our country. “God bless America, and God bless all of you,” he said.
Scott later took to the podium to remind those present that, while Veterans Day only comes once a year, we must be grateful for our Veterans year round. “Hopefully let’s all keep in the back of our minds that it’s not just today. There are 364 other days a year to make sure to remember all those sacrifices, hard work, and the things they’ve given up along the way,” he said.
The traditional ceremony also incorporated the laying of the wreaths, the reading of the names of Monroe residents engraved on the memorial plaque, and the lowering of the American flag.
As the ceremony came to a close, Rodgerson left the audience with a final statement: “My biggest message to you all, remember your service members,” he said.
Following the closing prayer, Rodgerson distributed letters of gratitude written by Cub Scout Pack 166 to each of the veterans present.
“The ceremony is to recognize all of the veterans and their dedication to what they have done to protect this nation, and all of their efforts in doing what it takes, and to remember all of the veterans that are passed, the veterans that didn’t make it, and the ones that are making it that sadly have problems and need a lot of attention and need support,” said Rodgerson.
“That’s what the American Legion wants to do. We want to stand behind our vets, we want to recognize them, and we want to help them … We are proud to stand behind them,” he said.