Community Forum, Bill Brooks: Memorial Day carries special meaning
These are remarks delivered on Monday during the Memorial Day activities at the Soldiers Monument in Middlebury by Bill Brooks, executive director of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History and a U.S. Air Force veteran.
Today is a day to celebrate, to remember, and in some cases to mourn those from Middlebury and throughout our nation who served or are currently in the military.
I invite you to visit local memorials that pay tribute to veterans. Right here across the street from the Town Hall Theater is a statue depicting civil war soldiers, who fought to preserve the union. Their names are depicted on a second memorial on the green up the hill, which in addition to listing 256 Civil War veterans, honors those locals who served in the Revolution, the Spanish War, and World War I. Known as the “Great War” and the “War to End All Wars,” the World War I plaque lists 141 names, which as event organizer Ken Perine mentioned in his introduction includes my grandfather, Dr. Jacob Johnson Ross, but also another well known Middlebury resident whose Italian language skills were helpful to the allies, Edward “Ned” Calvi.
A plaque south of here at the American Legion Post 27 on Boardman Street, honors three locals who died in World War I, 12 who died in the Second World War, two in Korea, and two in Vietnam. Anxious to learn more about the Addison County Vietnam War casualties, I consulted internet sources to find that Army Staff Sgt. Robert Douglas Stone of Salisbury, Vt., during his second tour in Vietnam, died on July 21, 1968, when the helicopter in which he rode was shot down. His death came two days following his 26th birthday; he is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery. Army Private First Class David Alan Brileya of Vergennes died at the age of 19 on June 11, 1967, in combat along with two of his Infantry comrades. He is buried in Shoreham’s Lakeview Cemetery.
This holiday weekend and on all national holidays, our local Middlebury Rotary Club places American flags throughout town. Of special interest are the flags in Cannon Park, which contain plaques honoring by name individual veterans. I invite you to visit the park and read the names on the approximate 75 plaques there.
American flags with multiple stars and strips of red, white and blue remind us of the diversity of our nation and our goals of tolerance, unity and inclusiveness during war and peace. Men and women now serve together; sexual orientation is no longer a barrier to enlistment. In our current volunteer military, welcome are residents from all 50 states and five territories, representing all religions, varied economic, social, educational and professional backgrounds. These wide-ranging individuals come together to serve their nation.
Current returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, who like us might have differing views on the goals and conduct of the wars, are united in support of those with whom they serve, the benefits of knowing American men and women from different backgrounds and cultures, and their new friendships with citizens of countries where they were stationed and for whom they seek democracy and an end to authoritarian rule.
During this Memorial Day weekend, as you reflect upon our country, honor those who have served in its defense, acknowledge their supportive friends and families, and take time over the summer to visit the memorials up the hill and at the American Legion, to remember those from Middlebury who fought, some who died, in the Revolutionary War, the Spanish War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and more recently the Middle East and South Asia. Honor and help, as best we can, those who, as result of their service, were injured and struggle physically and mentally.
Support also those currently serving in the military. I will be thinking of my great-nephew, 2nd Lt. Ian Gregory Campbell, a graduate of Mount Abe, who is at Ft. Bragg, N.C., currently serving with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Many thanks to you all for attending this memorial tribute.
Editor’s note: Bill Brooks enrolled in Air Force ROTC while at Kenyon College. Upon graduation in 1964, he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. For four years he served as a special agent in the USAF Office of Special Investigations with duty stations in Washington, D.C.; Seoul, South Korea; and Cincinnati, Ohio; while engaged in personnel security background, counter-intelligence and criminal investigations. He is the third generation of his family to serve in the military, which began when his grandfather, Major Jacob Johnson Ross, MD, of Middlebury, served as the flight surgeon for the U.S. Army’s 17th Aero Squadron while stationed in France during World War I.