Wilton’s veterans are honored with ceremony
“Thank you cannot possibly be enough,” state Sen. Will Haskell (R-26) told Wilton veterans assembled at the town’s Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11, at which those who have served and continue to serve the country were honored.
“We also must go beyond that and constantly honor the generations of men and women who served not only on battlefields across the world but on military bases and in hospitals here at home.”
The ceremony was presented by the James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86, whose namesake gave his life during World War I, which ended 101 years ago.
Haskell quoted President John F. Kennedy, who served in World War II. Haskell pointed out the nation’s 35th commander-in-chief died just 22 years after entering the Navy in 1941.
Speaking at a Veterans Day ceremony, Kennedy said, “As much as we express our gratitude, it’s not enough to simply utter words but also to live by them.”
“So the values for which you fought and the promises you worked so hard to uphold, that promise made to every American of life, liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness, we have to pass that on to future generations and work carefully to protect the values that you helped to defend,” Haskell said.
One member of a future generation who participated in the ceremony was Shayna Wilson-Spiro, an eighth grader at Middlebrook School. She won the post’s Veterans Day essay contest for her piece, The American Legion: Helping Those Who Help Us, and read it at the ceremony.
“Veterans are heroes, responsible for our country’s safety and security, and yet many are either not acknowledged for their service, or are injured in service and not given everything they might need to heal,” she wrote.
Many veterans, she said, “have been helped at some point, possibly unknowingly, by the American Legion.
“From the day the American Legion constitution was signed in 1919 to the present day, this organization has been crucial to the veterans of the United States through its lifesaving donations and fight for veteran rights.”
She listed a number of crucial steps taken by the Legion to raise the visibility and improve the circumstances of veterans.
They include donating more than $1 million to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which was used to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.; sponsoring a study on the effects of the defoliant Agent Orange used in Vietnam; raising $1.1 million for Operation Comfort Warriors, which gives injured military personal items not supplied by the government such as books, board games and electronic devices.
The Legion also worked to form the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of today’s Department of Veterans Affairs. The Legion’s national commander, Harry W. Colmery, in 1944 wrote the original G.I. Bill of Rights, Shayna told the audience.
“Unfortunately, being a veteran isn’t easy now, and it never was,” Shayna said. “Luckily, the American Legion has been there for 100 years to support America’s heroes.”
One of those heroes is Don Boyle, a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart, who was in the audience on Monday. A Wilton resident, he is an active member of Post 86 as well as a member of the Western Connecticut Military Officers Association.
Boyle graduated with a second lieutenant commission for the Army from Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont. After armor officers basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., he was then sent to Fort Hood in Texas, where he was put in charge of a platoon of tanks in the 1st Armored Division.
“Old Ironsides,” he said, showing a patch on his Army jacket that commemorates the storied unit that was the first armored division of the Army to see battle in World War II.
But Boyle was headed for Vietnam in June 1970. He was sent to Quang Tri, an area known as The Northernmost, he said, because Quang Tri Province was the northernmost province of South Vietnam. The Battle for Quang Tri had occurred two years earlier.
At the time he was there, though, Boyle was with one of only two armored battalions in that region.
“Unfortunately, I got wounded the next month,” he said of his June arrival, “after three firefights.
“I was wounded by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) round and I lost my left tricep in my left arm and got a bullet in my right forearm.”
It was a fierce fight, with one soldier killed and nine wounded, including Boyle, who was the only officer injured.
Boyle was taken to a MASH unit for treatment. “They had two operating rooms,” he recalled, “and I was the third worst wounded, so I had to wait.”
The treatment there was excellent, he said, and he was eventually shipped out to DaNang and then an army hospital at Camp Zama in Japan.
Boyle’s injuries qualified him not only for the Purple Heart he wore Monday, but for full retirement from the Army, which took place in Deceember 1971.
Back in the U.S., he pursued a career in marketing and sales, first for IBM, then Citibank and finally Morgan Stanley.
In addition to Haskell and Shayna speaking, Monday’s ceremony included a prayer by Post 86 Chaplain Frank Dunn; the National Anthem sung by Wilton High School students Rachel Slater, Anna Clark, Tyler Blain and Ryan Lynn; a proclamation by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice; and remarks by state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Sean McNeill, Post 86 finance officer.