Veterans and those who wished to honor them, gathered at the John Philip Sousa Memorial Bandshell on Saturday, Nov. 11, for Port Washington's Veterans Day Observance. Through words, silence, and music, a moving tribute was paid to the many who served their nation through their military service, enduring great hardship and making tremendous sacrifices.
Flanked on the stage by the distinguished Marine Corps. Honor Guard, veterans, and honored guests, Arthur George, the first vice commander of American Legion Post 509 of Port Washington, opened the Observance. Mr. George was substituting for Commander Bob Click, who was unable to attend due to illness in his family; Commander Click, Mr. George noted, was much missed. Legislator Craig Johnson was in attendance, as were the Zwerleins, Gold Star parents. A moment of silence was observed to remember all the veterans lost, and special mention was made of the sailors killed during the recent attack on the USS Cole. As always, the empty P.O.W.- MIA chair onstage was a stark reminder of those still missing.
Floyd Mackey, a veteran and the Acting Chaplain of American Legion Post 509, gave the Invocation, offering a message of thankfulness "for those who gave," and expressing a hope for "enduring peace." Veteran Sal Condoluci lead the "Pledge of Allegiance," which was followed by veteran/Cantor Herb Stauss's exquisite singing of The Star Spangled Banner. Daniel Blasucci, commander of the Henderson-Marino V.F.W. Post 1819 of PW, read a poignant poem, "Freedom Isn't Free," an anonymous work that reminds us of the human costs of enjoying the freedoms we have today.
As uniformed veterans, families, friends, and others stood solemnly around the stage, Vince Borkowski, a Korean War veteran, played a haunting rendition of Taps on the trumpet; eloquent words of benediction followed from Les Kent, an associate member of the Marine Corps League, PW Detachment 614, who served in the Air Force. Mr. Kent flew combat missions in the Pacific during WWII when he was just 19 years old. With a strong, soaring voice, Fran Jurkowski, the wife of veteran Paul Jurkowski, sang God Bless America, and the official observance came to a close.
But those who served their country and made incredible sacrifices continued to be on the minds of those attending. "My husband served three tours of duty in Vietnam," said Betty Sheridan, a lifelong PW resident, "This is a day for all veterans. They should be remembered."
Veteran's Day developed from its predecessor, Armistice Day. The latter was established to mark the end of WWI at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill establishing November 11 as Veterans Day, to honor all those who had served in the military.