Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 24 August 2012 00:00
(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Wednesday, Aug. 8, Christy Hinko, Navy veteran and editor of the Farmingdale Observer, delivered this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches that were delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)
Let me just start by saying that I am honored to have been asked to present the speech preceding this evening’s Salute to Veterans concert. A special thanks to Bill Johnston, grandfather of two active duty Army men, who gave me the privilege to speak tonight. I applaud Brad DeMilo and community for making these Village Pops concerts such a success, year after year.
I look out tonight and I see many familiar faces, many that I have only met through the photos and articles that are sent into the Farmingdale Observer each week for me to use to tell the stories of your lives.
A little about me, Christy Hinko, your Observer editor, I am Navy veteran, having served five years active duty, three of those years onboard the USS Nimitz. I was a Radioman, handling the database management and message traffic for the ship’s communication. Originally from Chicago, it was my service and expertise that eventually landed me in New York for work in the private sector.
Tonight’s theme is “A Salute to Veterans” and while some think of veterans as those who are still living, a veteran encompasses all who have served, both the living and the dead. Whether you served in peacetime or in war, for two years or 30, you are bonded to your fellow veterans.
Bob Kohler, of the Vietnam Veterans Association said something last week at the opening ceremony of the Traveling Vietnam War Memorial Wall that brought my relationship to other veterans into perspective.
He said “Remember, we are bonded to them [the war dead] as brothers, just as we are to each other because of our service, our loyalty and commitment and no one can take that from us.”
I want to take a moment to acknowledge Tom Heinsohn presently serving with the Marine Corps. And many others presently serving, or have recently served, whose names we don’t know until they have completed their service:
Charles and Mitchell Dittmar
Caleb and Nathan Zwikelmaier
And a personal friend of mine who lives in Farmingdale, Robert Cowhey, who has served for more than 20 years in the Army Reserves.
There is no greater honor to someone who has served in the armed forces than for their story to never be forgotten, just as you are in attendance here tonight to make sure that respect is paid to those who have served, it is also your obligation to tell your children the stories, to tell your grandchildren the stories. Stories of the veterans’ plight, their struggle, stories of their success, and of their sacrifice.
No one entering the military on their own free will should be surprised that they will be commanded to execute a mission that does not agree with their morals or standards. It has been this way for thousands of years, for as many young men and women in the military; they are young, and are entrusted with a super-human load of responsibility.
Although I am a veteran, I am still honored to hear the stories of the WWII veteran, the Vietnam veteran, with some of the first Tuskegee Airmen, with the soldier who flew the planes, who sailed the ships, who cleared the fields. These men and woman are living history; they are our modern day heroes.
Before Veterans’ Day last year, I asked a group of 6-year-old Girl Scouts, “Who are veterans? Do you know any?” All 14 of them said they didn’t know any ‘veterinarians.’ Even my own daughter; I realized then how important it was to make sure she knows my story as a veteran, how important it will be for her to re-tell it one day. I told the group of Scouts that when the teacher asks them the following week if they know any veterans they can now proudly say, “Yes, our Girl Scout leader is a veteran.”
Many of them came back to me the next week to say that they learned that their grandfather had served, or their great-grandfather had served. It’s imperative that the young generation makes a connection to veterans and their sacrifices that have been made so they can enjoy the freedoms that may be taken for granted. I hear this too often, “We never knew grandpa served in the military.”
If you have never shared your stories, I encourage you to begin that conversation. Take responsibility for never letting this nation forget the sacrifices made so the rest could live comfortably, to vote, to make simple choices, to be able to send their daughters to school.
Farmingdale remembers, it is evident with the gathering here tonight. It is evident that military service is weaved into the fabric of this community, since Farmingdale’s incorporation, right through this very day.
Some left Farmingdale to serve. Some served and returned. Some never made it back. Some arrived here in Farmingdale for the first time after they served. Look around; memorials and monuments outline the Village Green.
August 21, 1862 marks a special year in Farmingdale. It’s the 150th anniversary of a group of 13 young men departing from the Main Street train station to answer the call of President Abraham Lincoln to join the Army. This contingent, along with 22 others left Farmingdale to fight in the Civil War.
Evidence is an all borders of this village too, the Grumman factories, Republic Airport, the Airpower Museum, the final resting place for hundreds of veterans at the Long Island National Cemetery. And Farmingdale presently being the home of New York State’s Armed Forces Reserve Center, at the former armory, near the airport.
Farmingdale State College has honored its student veterans since its early years and continues, even as recent as its memorial oak rededication to student veterans. Being an alumna of the school, I could not have been more proud to see present day veterans carrying the flags of each of the Armed Forces branches, participating in the rededication to all veterans.
And I want to thank some of the many local organizations that regularly honor the veterans: such as the school district, village officials, the historical society, fire and EMS agencies, AARP, the community summit, the airport and the airpower museum, the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, and many of the local business and private residents.
My appreciation is extended to the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts and auxiliaries, who each do great work for their fellow veterans and for the community.
Almost 70 years ago it was an insult to say, “your mother wears combat boots,” and now women proudly wear full combat gear; the term holds no insult today. Your local veterans are old, young, able and disabled, man, women, from all walks of life, from all races, religions.
I guarantee that no one enlisted for the paycheck, not 70 years ago, not today. We did it for a better life; we did it for our families; we did it for this country.
We are more than 250,000 strong on Long Island, in whatever capacity, with whatever level of pride you have, you are one of us and the mission includes to protect fellow vets and ensuring that America “never forgets” those who gave some, and those who gave all.
Veterans, whatever you feel about your service to this country, whether it be pride or something other. Whether your service was stolen, borrowed, or donated, whether you signed willingly on the dotted line…stand up and be counted, stand up and be confident.
When I call your branch, both, veterans and actively serving…stand up and be proud, be counted. Let Farmingdale know the veteran foundation of this community.
Air Force…stand up. Army…stand up. Marine Corps…stand up. Navy…stand up. Coast Guard and Merchant Marines…stand up.
I would also like to acknowledge the family members who have held down the fort at home, or who have supported your transition back to being a civilian and have upheld your honor and applauded your service.
Vets, take pride in your service. Fulfill your chance to make sure the world ‘Never forgets.’ Farmingdale, please give your veterans your applause.