Burlington residents, town leaders, state representatives and veterans gathered on the Town Commons last Friday, Veterans Day, to pay tribute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
The program was put together by Burlington's Office of Veteran Affairs and featured a flag raising ceremony, variety of speakers, placements of wreaths on memorials to fallen soldiers and police and veteran color guards.
The Burlington High School Marching Band provided stirring patriotic accompanyments and Joseph McGrath played movingly on the bag pipes.
State Sen. Kenneth Donnelly began his remarks thanking Robert Hogan, Director of Burlington's Office of Veteran Services and Betty McDonough, Principal Clerk of the office, for their work in supporting veterans in Burlington.
"They are second to none in making sure they take care of veterans in the community," Donnelly said. He then went on to say everyone must work to support those who sacrificed for our freedom.
"There is a cost to paid for freedom," he said. "That cost was paid by our veterans. The service they gave to us and the sacrifices they gave, we can never forget."
Donnely said that 1,890 veterans are homeless in Massachusetts, and pointed out that veterans are more likely than other groups to be unemployed. He said business leaders must make more an effort to hire veterans and the community must offer them support.
"the way we say thank-you to our veterans is to make sure we have the services to provide to them," Donnelly said. "The best way to say thank you is to give them jobs and make sure we help them in their times of need."
Chair of the Board of Selectmen Walter Zenkin told a story of his grandfather, an immigrant from Poland, who at the age of 15 changed his name, lied about his age in order joined the armed forces to fight in World War II. He was injured in Europe, but fortunately survived to return home and have a family.
"I'm thankful for that," Zenkin said. "Every time I put his Purple Heart in my pocket I give a prayer of thanks and appreciation. I couldn't be more proud of him. At fifteen years old he had to be a strong man, and that isn't easy to do."
Rep. Charles Murphy read a proclamation to recognize the 70th anniversary of the attacks of Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II.
Former USAF F-16 Fighter Pilot and 1992 Burlington High graduate Shawn Lane, who was flying missions to enforce the no-fly zone against Iraq on September 11, 2001, spoke of his views on being a veteran. Lane said he is thankful for the opportunites to live a life-long dream by joining the armed forces, from which he had to retire when his parents became ill. Lane said that though he is a veteran, he still looks at the generations of soldiers before him with greater respect and was honored to meet with them during the ceremony.
"When I think of veterans, I think of the folks who stormed Normady on D-Day and those who were island hopping in the Pacific, and I'm glad to see them here today," he said.
Lane finished by reminder the crowd that the service and sacrifices of those who fought for the country should never be forgotten.
"It is important we never forget the brave men and women who have served and those who will continue to serve to protect our rights, our feedoms, and ultimately, our way of life," he said.