Remembering our veterans with gratitude on November 11, 2015

It is a privilege to honor our veterans, our men and women who served in the military.

We must remember that our freedom did not come easy. On battlefields across the globe, America’s finest men and women have shed their blood and their tears.

In 1926 Congress passed a resolution establishing Veterans Day as an official holiday to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918. The resolution instructed that “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” It further requested that the President issue a proclamation calling upon officials to display the United States flag at government buildings every Nov. 11.

Although the 11th hour of the11th day of the 11th month — November 1918 — marked the cessation of what was then considered one of “the most destructive, bloody, and far-reaching wars in human history, more and even bloodier wars were to follow.”

My own father never fully recovered from the horrors he experienced in World War II. Yet, my European family learned of the goodness, the utter decency of the American GIs when they saved my mother, my aunt and cousins from unspeakable atrocities and injuries sustained by a brutal enemy attack on their farm.

The American soldiers and medics arrived in time to save their lives. They treated their wounds, fed the malnourished family and gathered up the remaining livestock that had not been stolen or killed. Up to the time of her death at age 93, my aunt still could not speak of the horror — other than to reaffirm her gratitude and affection for those great American GIs who took care of her and her children.

On Veterans Day our country is at peace. A peace maintained and sustained by our military men and women who defend this country from all threats foreign and domestic.  By honoring veterans, we remember their valor and we take time to reflect on why they serve.

They fight to preserve the values of America, your freedom and mine.

They fight because our country asked them to take up arms. They went where they were sent. Did what they had to do. And prayed they and their fellow soldiers would survive and return home to family and friends.

Some did not.

It has been said that a soldier is someone who deliberately places him or herself in harm’s way, that when signing their enlistment papers writes a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including their life.'  The real implication of this statement cannot be fully understood by many but was brought home to us in Wilton.

Just a few short years ago, at the most profoundly heartbreaking Hillside service for a beloved son of Wilton, Nick Madaras, we were all overcome by the ultimate sacrifice made by this fine and giving young soldier.

As we sought to relieve some of the heartache to his family, I reflected on my own inner strength as a mother. Would we be able to bear letting our own sons or daughters go to war or pay the ultimate price? If we believe in this country, we would have to find a way to bear it somehow. We have a responsibility to those who will inherit this place after we are gone. We owe it to Nick and so many others who have given us the ability to enjoy the freedoms that we all, too often, take for granted.

We are humbled by the tremendous courage shown by our brave soldiers. There is no doubt that our veterans have paved the way for our military’s reputation as the finest fighting force in the world – both in strength and in character. That’s why it’s important – in fact imperative – that we remember them always.

Our obligations also remain to those transitioning out of the military; many of whom suffer physical and emotional trauma. Taking care of them is our nation’s responsibility. We must help those who need it by creating opportunities for them to contribute while supporting their strength and resilience.

When in Hartford at the Capitol Complex, take some time and visit the new State Veterans Memorial. It is located inside of Minuteman Park at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Broad Street in Hartford, directly in front of the State Armory. The memorial pays tribute to the more than 1.3 million Connecticut men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military in defense of our freedom. The site recognizes past, present, and future Connecticut veterans.

Veterans, you exemplify true honor and true devotion to your fellow human beings. Please know that we respect and value your service to our country and the state. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who currently serve those who have served and those who sacrificed their lives or their health so that we can live free and secure.

I thank you.