The annual Peace Memorial Plaza Veterans Day celebration included a special plea for people who have not been to war to ask servicemen and women from all conflicts about their experiences.
The remembrance of the fallen, those who served during peacetime and during war, was attended by well over 100 people on Veterans Day, Friday, November 11. It was sponsored by the Morris Park Kiwanis, the Morris Park Community Association, and the Knights of Columbus Mary Queen of Peace Council.
The assembly was called to order at exactly at 11 a.m. by past grand knight of the Mary Queen of Peace Council Al Corcillo, who presided over the playing of taps, a reading by chaplain Father John Knapp, the pastor of St. Gabriel Church; and a special plea by Community Board 11 district manager Jeremy Warneke, a veteran of the Iraq War, calling on residents who were not in the military to speak to veterans about their service.
“Now that I have some distance from it, I can look back on it favorably,” Warneke said of his experiences in Iraq, where he served a tour of 14 months. “I have learned things that I would have never otherwise learned, and seen places that I would have never otherwise seen.”
While he understands that many veterans may be reluctant to talk about their experiences, Warneke said to the crowd that if the questions are asked in the right way, the experience can be very beneficial to both the veterans and those who are learning about war. Sometimes, the memories can be painful, Warneke stated.
“One of my friends was burned on 45% of his body,” Warneke said. “I got lucky. I was personally lucky.”
Veterans from different eras were represented, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan, Corcillo said.
Corcillo said that back in 1991, when the plaza was dedicated, they placed what they believed would be the final stone in the plaza, for veterans of Desert Storm. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case, Corcillo said.
“We have been sponsoring this for more than 20 years,” said MPCA president Al D’Angelo. “We can see that the crowd has gotten bigger in the past three or four years, and now soldiers are getting more of the respect they deserve.”
Attendee Joe Thompson, the 49th Precinct Community Council president, spoke with fellow veterans after their service.
Thompson recalled his own service in the military during the period between the Vietnam and Korean conflicts in a radar station atop a snowy mountain in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, near Goose Bay.
“You have to take your hats off to the people who served on the front lines, because those people have all lost someone, and those are scars that never heal,” Thompson said. “There will never be enough done for veterans and they can never get the credit they deserve.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393