Wilmington Marks Veterans Day

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(Host) It’s Veterans’ Day and all over Vermont, villages and towns will honor those who served their country in the military.

The southern Vermont town of Wilmington held its Veterans Day observance a day early. Students from the region’s Twin Valley High School took the lead in organizing the event. 

VPR’s Susan Keese was there.

(Start Star Spangled Banner sung by school chorus) 

(Keese) Twin Valley Principal Frank Spencer usually holds a Veterans Day observance at the high school. But this year it was in the town’s Memorial Hall, a few blocks away.

(Spencer) "Veterans day has always been a very important day for me, based on my experience with a father, who was a World War II veteran.

And today in particular because of the Vermonters that are being sent over to Afghanistan we thought we’d make it a little bit more special. 

(Keese) During the ceremony, Spencer laced his talk with statistics he had gathered.

23 million veterans are living in this country today, 17 million of them combat veterans. 16 million Americans fought in World War II, eight Million in Vietnam.  Of the 660 thousand homeless in our country, Spencer said approximately a third are veterans.  

Some of the Twin Valley seniors had researched the lives of ancestors who served in past wars.

Devon Spirka talked about her Uncle Jim, who was captured at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. 

(Spirka) "The shrapnel from the bullet is still in his leg, making it difficult for him to walk. Jim was given a purple heart for being wounded in action. Alice and he had one child and they both lived happily into their nineties."

(Keese) Brittany Roemmelt’s great grandfather, Joseph MacNamara, served in World War I beginning in 1912.  He was in famous the Fighting 69th.  The story of his service in that unit was later recreated in a Hollywood Film. She told about a battle he fought in France 

(Romwelt) "He also received a bullet in his leg and refused to leave his regiment. His severe coughing however never disappeared. He continued to have health problems after being gassed."

(Keese) Senior Desiree Mack said that she was shocked by the figures Spencer, the principal, quoted on homeless vets. 

(Mack) "I think that’s really sad that that’s the way they… end up after they’ve just given so much of their time and commitment to our nation, for each of us to be here."

Brittany Romwelt, who wrote about her great grandfather, has a brother in law Chris Whitney, who’s currently serving in Iraq. She says she feels a lot of worry about him this Veterans Day. 

(Romwelt) "And also sadness because so many have died because of the War in Iraq."

One of those casualties was a Wilmington Policeman, Lt. Col Mark Dooley, killed in action in 2005. 

Greg Murano is also a Wilmington Policeman, who served 6 years in the Air National Guard and was deployed to the Middle East in support of the Iraq War.

(Murano) "Veterans Day to me has… has changed its importance since 2005. I lost a very good friend of mine in Iraq and so it definitely makes you stop and think." 

(Keese) Murano organized a successful road race as a fundraiser for a scholarship in his friend’s name.  He thanked the young people who helped to make it a success, — urged them to remember.

(Murano) "Everyone has their busy life and every one has their busy life and friends and just to honor those who step aside from all that , all the comforts that we enjoy every day, to serve our country and defend our freedoms." 

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese. 

Note:  Vermont Governor Jim Douglas will observe the Veterans Day Holiday today by attending a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Randolph Center.

He’ll join the families of Vermont’s fallen servicemen in the unveiling plans for a new Global War on Terror Memorial. 

The ceremony is at 2 o’clock this afternoon.

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