A Lasting Tribute to Veterans

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Thursday May 22, 2014

On the morning of Saturday, May 17, the sky was still colored grey. But as the day progressed, the clouds rolled away, and by 2 p.m., the sun set its spotlight on Dorset Park as the South Burlington community came together for the Veterans Memorial Dedication Ceremony.

The dedication, attended by huandreds of community members, echoed a message of gratitude throughout the ceremony. 

The St. Andrew’s Pipe Band of Vermont played, the flag was presented by the Vermont Air National Guard Color Guard, and everyone joined in for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem led by Gary Moreau.  The SBHS Chamber Singers performed, and Maj. Kurt Gibe of VTANG led the invocation. 

Veterans Committee Chair Jay Zaetz, recalled the history of the memorial, which was four years in the making. He thanked fellow committee members and friends for their dedication, and he recognized the designers of each memorial that now permanently grace the city. Deputy City Manager and committee member Tom Hubbard presented a special thank you to recognize partners and special guests of the project.  

Veterans Committee Fundraising Chair Rick Farnham graciously recognized all those who donated to the project.

“A relatively small group of South Burlington citizens formed the Veterans Committee and immediately turned to all its community members with the concept of what today, lies here before you, your South Burlington’s Veterans Memorial. The visualization needed the contributions from you to finance every dollar of this project. The response has been a remarkable success as you generously participated with your caring, your time, and your financial donations,” he said. 

“We stand here to dedicate our community’s Veterans Memorial as a tribute to the men and women of our Armed forces who have willingly served our country in times of conflict and peace. It stands as a lasting tribute to those who have gone before us, those who currently uphold the values and ideals this country was founded upon, and for all those of future generations who will continue to proudly serve,” Farnham stated.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, The Pathway of Honor is a place where citizens can gather to celebrate what Memorial Day truly means, a day that guest speaker Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, Adjunct General of Vermont, says should never be trivialized.

“It’s important to us here today and the rest of our community to demand that we never forget,” he said. “Stop and think about the heroes these memorials represent. Think about what raising the flag means. Why we lay a wreath to remember our fallen. Why we play Taps. Remember the sons and daughters who raised their right hands to serve a greater cause than themselves. They are part of a team that lives by integrity, service and excellence.”

Guest speaker Rep. Helen Head, chair of General Housing and Military Affairs, provided more than just a thank you to veterans and those currently serving. 
“I see there is work left undone that those who served and sacrificed would very much want us to do,” she began. “....We are beginning to lose fewer lives through war but we are sustaining more lasting injuries both physical and emotional.”

Head acknowledged that healthcare outpatient visits by veterans are at an all time high and that there is still work to be done to address major psychological issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the rate of homelessness among veterans, the disturbing rate of suicide, domestic violence, and military sexual trauma.

 “I truly believe that to honor the memory of those who served us, we must acknowledge the challenge before us. Surely the veterans we honor today and their families would accept nothing less.”

Guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj Paul Edwards of the Vermont Air National Guard assured the audience that young service men and women “are just as much up to the task as their predecessors.”  Karen Mayer and Dorothy Fisk of the Green Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a ceremonial wreath at the memorial. City Council Chair Pam Mackenzie and City Manager Kevin Dorn accepted a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol building and presented by Katherine Long, Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office Representative. The ceremony concluded with VTANG’s 21 Gun Salute and Taps played by SBHS senior Conner Young. 

At the conclusion of the dedication, the crowd dispersed to search for familiar names among the personalized pavers on the Pathway of Honor, to examine the monuments, and to enjoy the music, food and activities which followed the ceremony.  Children bounced gleefully on the inflatables, played carnival games and sports activities, laughed with Joey the clown, stood mesmerized by a magician, had their faces decorated in paint and explored the on-site fire engine. The concerts provided by the Gravelin Brothers Band and the Don Campell Band provided a perfect backdrop for neighbors and friends to celebrate community.  

The memorial will stand as a lasting expression of  this community’s gratitude to the brave men and women who have served to protect the nation.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent