NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In what was one of the more moving veterans ceremonies in recent New Rochelle history, residents came together at Memorial Plaza in downtown New Rochelle to honor our nation’s heroes. Before it was over, there were few dry eyes among the assembled veterans, their families and supporters.
Organized by the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association and the City of New Rochelle, the hour long ceremony included patriotic songs, a firing detail and speeches by local officials and high-ranking military brass.
The event was organized, as usual, by the indefatigable Peter Parente who leads the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association.
Sorely missed his year was Parente’s long-time aide-de-camp, James Murphy who passed away earlier this year.
Prayers were offered by 99-year old WWII veteran William F. Moye.
Mark Cooper led the New Rochelle High School symphonic band, including taps performed by William Ungewitter.
Parente, along with New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and former New York State Assemblyman Ron Tocci, made remarks to the crowd that overflowed onto the street next to the park.
Parente related his experience escorting WWII veterans to Washington, DC last month for an Honor Flight to see the WWII memorial. He told how Senator Bob Dole met them at the memorial to tell the vets his connection to New Rochelle — Frank Carafa, the man who saved his life in Italy.
Read more about Frank Carafa and Bob Dole here: PBS Frontline: Frank Carafa, World War II veteran who rescued Lt. Dole on the battlefield in Italy.
Featured speakers were three senior officers who served in the U.S. Army. Colonel John Dodson, Color Roger Heimann and Brigadier General Michael Alan Mann.
Mann grew up in New Rochelle, on White Oak Street. His mother still lives in Eastchester. She was in the audience. He spoke about the ethos of the military and told two stories that embodied that ethos. On his way to New York from Washington, DC, Mann described a woman struggling to get a large back in the overhead rack on an airplane. Several large men passed her buy without helping. An army specialist, a slight young man, was the only one who stopped to help. Earlier, before board the plan, Mann told how he was waiting at his gate when a voice came over the P.A. system to announce that a group of World War II veterans on an Honor Flight were soon to be coming through the area. People at the gates got up from their seats and stood, applauding, as the veterans came through the airport.
Dotson and Heimann attended West Point together where they studied engineering and were in the Army Corps of Engineers.
Dotson said went he went to Vietnam he got tired of the enemy blowing up his bridges so he joined Special Forces and later went to flight school where he was trained to fly helicopters.
Heimann only spoke briefly, describing himself as a product of the New Rochelle public schools. It was Dotson who told the crowd that Heimann had been a two-sport star athlete at the high school, in wrestling and football.
A last minute addition was Nula Outis, who asked Parente if she could read a poem. She struggled to get through the entire poem and even the most hardened vets struggle to hold back tears.
“In Flanders Fields”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.