Remember--The 11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month

Someone gave me a calendar last Christmas. I admit, I don't remember who the giver was, but I do look at it every day.

The calendar has a quote for each day, something to think about. Well, almost every day. They make Saturdays and Sundays share one quote.

Some are famous quotes, others just thoughts. Stuff like "Think it more satisfaction to live richly than to die rich" or "This is a day of new beginnings." "Tomorrow's life is too late; live today" and "Winners make big things happen a little at a time."

Okay, they're not all great. But I pass one from last week along to you for Veterans Day. It simply said:

"Those who live in freedom will always be grateful to those who helped preserve it." 

Last Sunday, veterans from Holyoke, Chicopee, Southampton, Westfield and the surrounding communities held an annual Veterans Day event at Apremont Park. I regret to say that, other than the Westfield High Band, the veterans themselves, and public officials, there were just 31 people in attendance. Perhaps many have forgotten the wars, and the warriors, from the century just ended.

Yes, I'm afraid we don't tell our veterans often enough that we are, indeed, grateful.

But tomorrow is Veterans Day and another chance for you to say thank you.

Veterans from all of Westfield's military organizations-and there are many-will join city and state officials, fire and police, for a short parade, from Westfield Bank to Parker Park. Parade at 10 a.m., ceremonies at 11 a.m.

It is, afterall, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And, we will remember.

This year, of course, it seems particularly important to recognize the 25,498,000 men and women who've served in our nation's military and the sacrifices made long ago and those being made right now by soldiers and their families. Each time the 104th Air National Guard flies over my house, for example, I'm thankful they are here and worry about when more will have to leave.

Since September 11th, we've all thought a lot about what it means to be an American. What freedom means--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and what the price of our freedom is. The chance to make a living, the freedom to express an opinion, the opportunity for our children to go to school, and the opportunity to freely cast a vote.

Our nation and the beliefs it is built on meant enough to our veterans that they risked their lives and gave their lives for the rest of us. Over the years, they have fought for our way of life. 

Our country offers opportunities so valuable that desperate people will climb through sewers or cram into fishing boats for a chance to come here. Others risk years of persecution in their native land simply for expressing an interest in coming to our shores.

Thomas G. Kelly, Commissioner of Veterans Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, recently wrote that, "Certain achievements are so significant that they shouldn't be lost and forgotten upon the passing of those who performed the acts." 

He was, of course, highlighting the importance of remembering, recognizing and appreciating the contributions of Veterans. Tomorrow, I hope you'll join us in honoring those men and women. 

To those I've known and loved--including my husband and my father--and to those I'll see tomorrow and to those I'll never know, I offer a humble, heartfelt "thank you." 

Like the calendar said, "Those who live in freedom will always be grateful to those who helped preserve it." 

And, I am.

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