Cities and towns across the region honored military veterans today with parades, wreath-laying ceremonies,and speeches. One western Massachusetts college held its annual multigenerational observance.
Rain forced the relocation of American International College’s Veterans Day celebration from its traditional location at the permanent veteran’s memorial on the main Springfield campus to an indoor venue.
More than 100 people including college students, alumnae, faculty, staff and local residents participated in the event to honor veterans that included a wreath laying, prayers, a moment of silence, and patriotic tributes.
Congressman Richard Neal, a 1972 graduate of AIC, was the keynote speaker.
" Today we honor not just the service of those who are with us, but we are reminded that from Concord and Lexington to Anbar Province and Kabul that men and women have served with great distinction at the call of this nation," said Neal.
Neal said America must honor its obligations to veterans from all generations, whom he praised for defending the cornerstone of democracy: the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
" So, that means in our own midst here that soldiers home in Holyoke, that veterans hospital in Northampton," he said.
Even as the World War II generation of veterans dies away, and the Korean and Vietnam War veterans grow older, Neal said the veteran population is swelling as a result of the country’s longest running war, now in its 14th year, in Afghanistan.
"There are a million new veterans today in the aftermath of Afghanistan and Iraq and they are going to need our service and our care," Neal said in an interview. " It is the repeating notion of service and sacrifice."
The winner of a patriotic student essay contest, AIC freshman Alyssa Szymczyk described soldiers as “America’s guardian angels.”
She said her passion on behalf of veterans is partly due to her grandfather, who was a Marine, and to an uncle, who is with the U.S. Army Special Forces. Szymczyk said she is fascinated by the history of Pearl Harbor.
" Take time out of your day to honor anybody that is serving or served," She urged. " This day is emotional for them."
The AIC event was organized by the college’s multigenerational Alumni Veterans’ Committee, chaired by Ken Geromini, a Vietnam vet.
" Our sole purpose is to bring recognition to the student-veterans and the veteran- alumni," he explained.
The college will extend its salute to veterans with a panel discussion Thursday, Nov 12th on “Veterans, Service, and Patriotism.” The event is open to the public.