Paying Tribute Lest We Forget
Danvers service men and women, their families and other residents paid tribute to veterans everywhere at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the month on Thursday.
Veterans, family members and other residents packed the house at the Danvers Senior Center Thursday morning to celebrate Veterans Day.
The solemn ceremony honoring service men and women, both here and abroad, began with a prayer by Rev. Judy Proctor, followed by the retort of muskets outside by the Danvers Alarm List Company and the national anthem sung by the Danvers High Chamber Singers. The Danvers Junior Girl Scouts also led the crowd in singing "You're A Grand Old Flag."
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Clyde Dugas, the senior vice commander of the VFW Post in town, urged those gathered Thursday to not forget their history nor those who served.
"It may be hard for you to picture us old guys, and girls, charging a hill...jumping out of airplanes, but we did it," Dugas said, injecting a note of levity into his remarks. "We did it proudly and we did it very well."
Dugas noted that in the same day the fighting officially ended and gave rise to the holiday now celebrated as Veterans Day, the last five or six hours of fighting were some of the worst of World War I. Eleven thousand American troops were lost that day, either wounded, missing or killed in action, and all told more than was lost on the beaches of Normandy in 1944.
The same spirit driving those men to give their lives, likely spurred on the sacrifices of the earliest of American veterans over 200 years ago. Dugas said that after Concord, colonial militia from Salem Village (present day Danvers) suffered the heaviest casualties in the first skirmishes of the American Revolution.
"You can say your ancestors in Danvers were the first American veterans," Dugas said, adding that the United States' victory in succeeding wars was because "veterans stood up and answered the call to duty."
None more so answered the call than more than 20 million men and women who served in World War I, whose lives are now only glimpsed in the annals of history. Dugas said World War II veterans are quickly approaching the same status. Locally, about 80 have died in the past two years.
He added that most GIs are now 85- to 90-years-old or older.
"Take time to honor them and what they did for you and the love they had for your country," he said.
"We also have some other real veterans that I have not mentioned before: mothers, wives, husbands and children of veterans deployed," Dugas said, noting those families have endured their soldiers being stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere over multiple tours of duty.
"That is hell on families; it is hell on children and wives," he said.
"Seek out veterans," he said. "If you see one in the parking lot, shake their hand. It will take you an extra five seconds. Go out of your way and shake their hand. Without them, we wouldn't have the America we have today."
Dugas wrapped up his remarks, urging people to aid Operation Troop Support in its mission to send care packages and other items to soldiers overseas. The non-profit group is wrapping thousands of Christmas gifts at the middle school from 10 a.m. - noon on Saturday.
"If you want to wrap some Christmas gifts, we will be glad to see you," he said. "I hate to wrap."