— Jeannette Ross photos

A bell tolled two times as Wilton’s veterans focused on the legacy of World War I in remembering two Wilton sons killed in France in 1918 during a Veterans Day ceremony. Those remembered were Charles R. Frederickson and James B. Whipple, namesake of Wilton’s American Legion Post 86 which organized the day’s events.

The ceremony, held on Nov. 11, was timed to conclude around 11, when the armistice to end the long, bloody war was signed. Although there are no living veterans of that conflict, Post Commander Bill Glass said “their legacy lives on.”

A group of veterans, joined by Selectwoman Deborah McFadden and Middlebrook sixth grader Alex Kuechenmeister marched along Old Ridgefield Road from Wilton Library to the Veterans Memorial Green for the ceremony that opened with a prayer read by Legionnaire Frank Dunn.

“Help us to remember with reverence the valor and devotion of our departed comrades. Not only those whose bodies consecrate our country’s soil but also those who sleep beyond the seas,” he prayed.

Reading from a proclamation signed by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, McFadden noted there are some 22 million U.S. veterans, 10% of whom are women, who have served in peace and war. Americans should, she read, “honor our veterans of all walks of life, many of whom have charged into harm’s way, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the freedoms that have blessed America, and whereas through the sacrifices of those who have served at home, on foreign shores to preserve our heritage and values, let us consecrate ourselves to the goal of an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

State Sen. Toni Boucher recalled the first two years of her life married to her husband Bud, who was a captain in the Air Force, were spent in a remote area of South Dakota. She said of servicemen and women “not only do they serve and protect our country and our democracy, they serve and protect our families … and if they are lucky enough to come home, many will serve in our communities.”

In her remarks, state Rep. Gail Lavielle acknowledged she had no role in the fight for democracy during World War I, but she is the granddaughter of two men who served.

“It was probably the most important event in many ways of the last century. It marked a change in our way of life that was overwhelming,” she said. She applauds what it did in terms of social exclusion and lack of mobility among people, “but sometimes what I do regret is the disappearance of certain behavioral codes, certain ways of treating other people with courtesy no matter what walk of life they came from and I guess it’s led to certain general loss of dignity.

“And we can, if we will, recover that. And if we can do it by thinking about what those people who fought for us in World War I fought for and what they were fighting for, our country and our world and our town and our neighborhoods and everything in our lives will be better places and better things.”

She thanked Wilton’s veterans and “my goodness, thank you to our keynote speaker. Perhaps he should be our first line of inspiration in thinking about what we can do to recover all of the dignity that we merit as human beings.”

The speaker she referred to was Alex Kuechenmeister, who won an essay contest conducted by Post 86. It asked middle school students to reflect on the legacy of the war and those who served, and to tell what they have done or can do to honor “the sacrifice of Wilton men who served in World War I and why this is important to them.”

“Most kids may not think about veterans often, but we should consider what they have done for us,” Alex read from his essay. “I was able to do this by visiting Wilton’s Veterans Memorial Green. It has six columns of honor that recognize Wilton’s fallen heroes who made the supreme sacrifice in America’s wars.

“While I was there, I thought about all 86 Wilton veterans who died and how their sacrifices created a world of opportunity for me and my friends and family. I felt thankful for them and sad that they died in action. I saw the names of James B. Whipple and Charles R. Fredrickson and silently thanked them for their sacrifice for all that has been given to me.”

Everyone, he said, “should especially think about the military heroes that are living in Wilton today. They are our doctors, teachers, neighbors, and various other members of our community. They have given so much to our country and continue to give to us every day. Taking a personal approach to honoring and thanking veterans can mean more than anything, and I will always be grateful for our heroes.” (Alex’s full essay may be read on page 5A.)

The ceremony also included a reading of the poem In Flanders Fields by Post 86 member Paul Niche, renditions of the National Anthem and America by singers from Wilton High School, and concluded with taps.