Veterans Day didn’t begin until after the weekend, but Brooklyn couldn’t wait for Monday to honor it’s beloved veterans, as servicemen and school kids gathered under the Star-Spangled Banner to hear tales of bravery and sacrifice, and reflect on the price of American freedom.
At Fort Hamilton, New York City’s only active U.S. Army garrison, the troops convened at the Post Theater on Nov. 7, in an event opened by Colonel Eluyn Gines.
Speakers from each of branch of the armed forces followed the garrison commander, speaking about the roles their fellow servicemembers played in conflicts from World War II to the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Navyman and senior non-commissioned officer Rafael Perez spoke about the invisible war fought between American and German submarines beneath the waves of the North Atlantic during World War II — a struggle that has been largely unrecognized in popular culture, but was nonetheless critical for victory in Europe.
Perez was followed on stage by Tech Sergeant Charles Goff III of the U.S. Air Force, who spoke about the struggle for control of the skies over Korea, the same conflict his grandfather fought in over 60 years ago.
Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel John Trepka spoke about the war in Vietnam, the guerilla operations his predecessors conducted there, and the battles they fought against the Viet Cong. The Marine Corps suffered heavy losses during the conflict, with more than 13,000 killed and more than 51,000 wounded, but the Marines would distinguish themselves by the war’s end with 53 Medals of Honor.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Stinnett of the U.S. Army, a veteran of both operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, spoke of about the army’s role in those conflicts, which have claimed the lives of more than 6,000 serviceman in all branches.
The speakers were rounded out by First Lieutenant Jeremy Maginot of the U.S. Coast Guard, who spoke of the role that service has played in protecting America’s shores, and in particular, the role the Coast Guard has played in safeguarding New York City from terrorist attacks.
Fort Hamilton typically holds Veterans Day events the week before the holiday, to allow the servicemen some leisure time over a four-day weekend.
Nearby, Gravesend’s PS 216 returned to its tradition and held annual Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 7 as well, after the school had been forced to cancel last year’s festivities in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
The event, which hosted dozens of veterans from various conflicts, opened with the children’s Color Guard parading before the crowd with a flag that was once draped over the casket of rescue workers who perished during 9-11.
The school’s band and chorus kept the vets entertained with “Military Medley,” and renditions of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
The celebration concluded with the afternoon’s highlight, when two soldiers out of Fort Hamilton took the stage to answer questions from the kids.