Wilton honors its veterans with a parade, ceremony and assemblies

Kendra Baker photos

From a parade through Wilton Center to school celebrations, the town of Wilton paid tribute to veterans in more ways than one this Veterans Day.

More than 70 veterans attended Cider Mill’s annual Veterans Day assemblies the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 11, where the school’s choruses, orchestra and band performed several songs of patriotism, ranging from “The Star Spangled Banner,” to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

History Channel representative Kristen Young spoke to students and guests about the history of the seven-year-old Take a Vet to School Day program, which originated at Cider Mill.

Attendees then watched videos on the history of Veterans Day and the various military branches and heard from Vietnam veteran Arthur Wiknik, who talked about his experiences as a soldier and the lessons he’s learned from those experiences.

Parade and ceremony

Soon after Cider Mill’s Veterans Day celebrations came to a close, the annual Wilton Veterans Day parade and ceremony commenced.

With Drew Kennedy leading the parade on the bagpipes, a little more than 10 Wilton veterans marched from Wilton Library to the Veterans Memorial.

Following the processional, Post 86 Finance Officer Alex Ruskewich opened the memorial service with a speech about  the ways in which veterans help people, other than just serving overseas. He also emphasized the importance of female veterans and the remembrance of all those who have served.

“Too often, the sacrifices of our veterans are forgotten,” said Mr. Ruskewich. “God bless the veterans and God bless America.”

Torie Clancy, a Wilton resident and veteran of the Armed Forces, was a guest speaker at this year’s remembrance ceremony.

Ms. Clancy, who served in the Air Force from 1989 to 1993, shared her experience in the Air Force, which she said gave her an education in independence, loyalty, respect, honesty and integrity.

“The military instills these traits and values,” she said, “and when you leave, you don’t loose that sense of patriotism and civic duty — these become innate.”

Ms. Clancy said it’s important to invest in our nation’s military members and “take care of our veterans as a society” and “ensure that our veterans, who have served our country so well, are given the best opportunities possible to excel.”

Ms. Clancy emphasized the importance of pushing for research in areas in which veterans face challenges — such as PTSD, homelessness, suicide and accessible and affordable health care — because, she said, “there’s a need to know that there is a collective awareness of the issues, and more importantly, a desire to make positive changes.”

“Approximately 33% of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans and on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living in the streets or in shelters in the U.S. The VA estimates that 8,000 veterans in all generations in the U.S. commit suicide each year,” said Ms. Clancy. “Fight for them as they fought for you.”

Ms. Clancy also said it’s important for people to support past and present military members and veteran organizations.

“If you recognize the value of hard work, leadership, dedication and integrity, actively support your local veterans’ causes and events,” she said.

Legion Post 86 is involved in a number of town activities, ranging from the annual Memorial Day Parade to co-sponsoring some author talks at the library. The post also loans items to the Wilton Library’s history room every so often.

“We’ve donated photos books and scrapbooks dating back to the very beginning of the post’s existence. They contain a trove of historical documents and photographs that trace the history of Post 86, and quite frankly, the history of Wilton,” Post 86 Vice Commander Bill Glass told The Bulletin.

“We want the community to be aware of, and have access to, historical documents and photos that help tell the story of the post’s development.”

Before Tuesday’s ceremony came to an end with taps and the raising of the flag, Post 86 Chaplain Frank Dunn led the crowd in a prayer and First Selectman Bill Brennan read a proclamation in which he thanked veterans for their sacrifices.