In the past year I have had the privilege of photographing many of Avon’s Veterans by invitation. From accompanying them to ceremonies involving each of the five public schools in our town and listening to the heartfelt personal presentations at the library last year to witnessing the formal parades of Memorial Day and Veterans Day to the smaller observances at the Town Green and many other occasions, I have seen these private people honor their experiences with a quiet dignity and demonstrate patriotism with pride.
Yesterday was more sobering and confronting than many of these other public events. The speeches recognized the passing of eleven members of VFW Post 3272 and the crowd was significantly smaller than in past years. People united in quiet prayer, the children sang and read stories about events we hope they never know while Taps was played solemnly with its haunting echo. Fewer flags lined the streets, the newly paving at the memorial was unswept and there were no chairs for the aging Veterans while the Town Offices were closed while stores offering Veterans’ Day Sales were full. It was a sad reflection of the imbalance in our priorities. This was a day to reflect on sacrifice and overwhelming situations that tested people’s limits, not to celebrate empty commercial opportunism.
One hundred years ago 5% of this small town’s population had enlisted. In today’s terms that would be nearly a thousand people but we know it’s only a small portion of that number. When the soldiers returned from early conflicts they were honored until the Vietnam Veterans returned to a deeply divided nation. They were often silent about their experiences and resumed normal life after abnormal experiences. In recent conflicts PTSD has been recognized as a medically valid condition but support in our communities is variable. The shocking fact I heard yesterday on WNPR is that more recently returned service people take their own life than become casualties of war. Think about those numbers again and know that is not acceptable. Think how you can reach out to support someone who needs deeper understanding and practical help when it really counts.
In this year recognizing the centennial of the outbreak of WW1 there have been many profound opportunities to reflect deeply on the human cost of conflict, a sad reality that is still being reported in our media daily while the relentless scale escalates. I sincerely hope my children are never called to fight but I hope they always have integrity and a sense of honor.
I hope they always have a deep sense of appreciation for those served with valor. I am deeply touched and I thank you. We remember your stories and your service.