Westport paid tribute to the nation's veterans Sunday with words of tribute and gratitude from town officials and a Staples High School senior, and patriotic music performed by the Westport Community Band.
"On any given day, you can be in the presence of a veteran, and you may not even be aware of their service," said Ian Teran, the Staples' senior who delivered the Veterans Day address in Town Hall's auditorium before a crowd of about 125.
Teran said Dan Geraghty, a former English teacher at Staples, served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, and Rich Franzis, an assistant principal at the high school, is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and served a year in the Iraq War during the surge in 2007 and 2008.
"These are two people that I and other students look up to for both their years of service and for the example they set for others," Teran said. "It is my hope to offer the same profound service as past generations of veterans in pursuit of a more perfect union, as stated in the Constitution of the United States."
"As a representative of my generation, I want to thank veterans for preserving, in my opinion, the greatest American ideal -- freedom," Teran added. "So, especially on this day, thank you veterans for putting it all on the line to defend the ideals that make this country great. Thank you for making incredible sacrifices so that we didn't have to. Thank you for never expecting anything in return, for each and every day doing what others would fear to do. Thank you for fulfilling your sworn duty to protect us and our American way of life. Thank you for your service."
Selectman Charles Haberstroh read a Veterans Day proclamation in which he spoke of the sacrifices made by veterans in defending liberty and the gratitude owed to them, and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said more than 6,000 soldiers have died and more than 35,000 have been injured in the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it is not enough to honor veterans by placing wreaths and crosses on graves and by paying tribute to them on Veterans Day. Americans, Joseloff said, have to address needs of the country's veterans, which he said include jobs, housing and support. And Joseloff added, "A simple `Thank you' goes a long way."
Joseloff said Connecticut National Guard soldiers recently came to Westport, along with 60 out-of-town firefighters, and that many residents didn't even know they were here. He said their presence in Westport following the storms that battered the town was "a vivid reminder of sacrifices of those in uniform."
The Westport Community Band, under the direction of Sal LaRusso, performed a concert before the ceremony officially began, and also performed several rousing songs in between portions of the ceremony. Songs included, "Red, White and Brass," "U.S. Army Song," "Semper Paratus," "The Marine's Hymn," "Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder" and "Anchors Aweigh."
Near the end of the ceremony, Staples' students Devon Lowman and Adam Mirkine performed "Taps" in honor of veterans who had died.
Scott Tilton, director of the Family and Children's Ministry at St. Paul Lutheran Church, delivered the invocation in which he asked God to bless all those who served in America's armed forces and to heal veterans hurt in body and soul. "Have mercy on all our veterans. Bring peace to their hearts and peace to all the regions they served in," he said.
Tilton also delivered the benediction, saying, "May God bless this country in His love, may God clothe this country in His care."
"May He protect those soldiers who now stand in harm's way," Tilton said.