By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — Veterans put everything on the line in service to their nation, and on Friday the local community saluted them for it.
The annual Veterans Day ceremony was held at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in the village. After VFW Post 9594 Commander Mike Kindlon opened the ceremony, Chaplain Dan LaMora recited a prayer and Vietnam veteran Jack Covey performed patriotic songs on the guitar and read a poem he wrote in honor of his fellow veterans.
Covey served in combat in Vietnam, his son has been a Marine for 11 years and his youngest son just left the Air Force after serving for seven years.
“We are steeped in military pride,” Covey said.
In his poem, Covey spoke of meeting “The Veteran Next Door,” who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan. Their shared military experiences formed a deep bond between the two men, Covey said.
“We recognize each other with a knowing nod — we are a family forged in fire and given the strength by God,” Covey read from his poem. “We come in all sizes — some manned ships, some manned tanks, and some served in the infantry ranks. And some came home from the war and received no thanks. But we are connected as a band of brothers, we comfort and care for each other, so today, on this 11th day, on the 11th hour, I pledge with all my power to thank all my brother vets, the ones that made it home and the ones that haven’t yet.”
Kindlon spoke of the importance of what was left behind when heading off to battle — family, friends and community — that help sustain troops through the difficult days ahead.
“On the worst days of combat, through the losses and the pain, I took pause and thought, can I make it just one more day?” Kindlon said. “The unique thing about that is that what gets you through that next day is wanting to come home to your family, your friends and your community. That’s what drives your fire because that’s what you’ve left behind.”
Capt. Robin Riordan, an Auxiliary member who retired from the U.S. Army Reserves after serving for 25 years, explained the importance and history of Veterans Day.
“Each Nov. 11, we gather to recognize the bravest of our citizens, the many people who have served in the military in the name of our freedom. There are approximately 19 million veterans living today, according to U.S. Census Bureau data,” Riordan said.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and was formed in the days following World War I.
“Veterans Day can trace its origins back to Nov. 11, 1918, the one-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I,” Riordan said. “President Woodrow Wilson declared that day Armistice Day. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to make it an annual occurrence. Veterans Day is an important day for every American and is intended to honor and appreciate all servicemen who served in the United States. Veterans Day honors all past military members who served our country regardless of the war or conflict, or if they lived or died.”
Korean War veteran Eugene Datri said the ceremony in honor of Veterans Day was a fitting tribute to those who served.
“I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of serving our country,” Datri said after the ceremony’s conclusion. “It’s one of the best things I have ever done, and I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Datri was seated next to his lifelong friend and fellow Korean War veteran, Mike Albano. Datri served in the Army, and Albano served in the Navy.
The two men were friends in the village in their pre-war days, and as one was getting off a military ship in Pusan (now known as Busan) in Korea, the other was getting on. They spotted each other among the other 5,000 U.S. military troops at the port. Seeing a friendly face from home was priceless, they said.
“He was getting on the ship and I was getting off the ship,” Albano said. “The only person I ever saw from here way over in Korea,” Albano said.
The two remain friends more than 70 years later.
“We grew up together and we are still friends. We still call each other on the telephone,” Albano said.
The daughter of a local veteran who served in World War I — the first, not the second, World War — was also on hand to honor those who served. Susan Meyers said her father, Gerald Schermerhorn, was 62 when she was born and had served in World War I.
“He didn’t talk about it much,” Meyers said, adding that she still has the service medal that was awarded to her father a hundred years ago.
Meyers’ family has a long tradition of military service — her father served in World War I, her stepfather served in World War II, and her uncle, nephew and two best friends all served in the Vietnam War.