Memorial Day in Weston

Weston Today photos

Weather cooperated just in time for the Weston Volunteer Fire Department’s Memorial Day Parade on Monday. In the slideshow below, scenes from the parade and the memorial ceremony on the Town Green that followed.

The memorial ceremony held on the Town Green was officiated by First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor and included remarks by Selectman Kerem Dinlenc and a moment of silence led by Selectman Tony Pesco.

The ceremony was opened by Fr. Augustine Nguyen of St. Francis of Assisi and closed by Rev. Piazza of Emmanuel Church. In between, the flag was raised and lowered to half staff, the Pledge recited, the anthem sung, a wreath placed at the Green’s memorial garden, and Grand Marshal Mario Federici spoke of duty, devotion, and family.

An address by Weston Volunteer Fire Department Craig Cohen, reproduced below, spoke of service men and women who “understood the meaning of task, purpose and common cause,” and made the ultimate sacrifice “protecting these virtues.”

Courage and the Common Good
Remarks by Craig Cohen, president, Weston Volunteer Fire Department

Friends and neighbors from Weston and our surrounding communities, honored guests including our First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor, World War II veteran and former Grand Marshall David Osborn and particularly, this year’s Grand Marshal, Mario Federici, on behalf of the men and women of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services, it is my privilege to welcome you as we join together this Memorial Day.

During a commencement speech given in 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Nobel Prize winning author and prominent Soviet dissident commented, “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today.” He went on to ask, “for the sake of WHAT should one risk one’s precious life in defense of the common good?”

Courage, common good?

It seems we have become a nation where a vocal minority hides behind computer keyboards creating an outsized impact in our national dialogue. Loudly and aggressively, they echo the sentiments of their respective bases, loath to compromise or acknowledge the validity of a different point of view.

Through the increasingly sophisticated use of artificial intelligence and the algorithms manipulating social media, it is hard to know what to believe. Our uncertainty is compounded by nation states and independent actors who have crafted platforms designed specifically to question, perhaps upend, our fundamental beliefs in constitutional democracy, human rights, judicial independence, and shared civic participation.

Their goal is to create fear and sow doubt, eroding our belief in an American common good. Daily we witness this effect tearing at the fabric of our nation.

To the extent our shared belief in the ideals of courage and common purpose still exists today, it resides in our armed forces. According to a most recent Gallup Study, our military remains the most esteemed institution in America; indeed the world. Why? Because soldiers are defined by their actions, not their words.

Andrew Bibb, a Strategist and Policy Officer affiliated with the U.S. Army War College put it this way: “task” and “purpose” are two of the most foundational doctrinal terms in the U.S. military. Purposes provide the moral foundation from which all military action is derived and are therefore critical to success in war.”

Courage and common purpose are foundational. These concepts drove our nation’s independence. In a 1775 letter responding to a newly minted colonial seeking advice about leadership, George Washington said, “Impress upon the mind of every man, from the first to the lowest, the importance of the cause, and what it is they are contending for.”

Today’s soldiers manage to tamp down the polarizing forces threatening our democracy because they continue to judge worth based upon the character and commitment of their brothers and sisters in arms. Army Staff Sergeant Rachel Baraneck put it this way: “I believe that being part of a bigger organization than myself and representing something bigger than myself is my way of earning my freedom and my way of life, and that of my family.” Our soldiers don’t shout from behind computer keyboards. Rather, they put themselves in harm’s way, they fight and die.

Though the United States is not currently, formally engaged in direct military conflict, that does not mean our troops are insulated from war. On January 28 this year three army reservists, all from Georgia, Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett were killed when a missile struck their housing container on an air base near the Syrian border while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Like those who came before, they understood the meaning of task, purpose and common cause. They gave their lives protecting these virtues.

On Memorial Day we come together As One Nation to honor and mourn the men and women who served and died to protect our country. May we always continue to find common purpose through their acts of sacrifice and courage. May God bless the United States of America and those who serve to keep us free.

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