Stunning Tribute In Western New York Left Me Speechless
There simply are not enough words to show our gratitude to the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. From generation to generation, Americans have been protected by an elite group of individuals who are willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. On Thursday night, I was reminded again about the impact of those sacrifices.
Thursday In Hamburg
The Hamburg Veteran's Committee hosted a Salute to the Troops on Thursday evening at the Nike Base/Hamburg Recreation Center on Lakeview Road. It was a fun night with face painters, food trucks and live music from One Eyed Jack! There were plenty of vendors and organizations on hand that represent veterans and their unique needs. From Veterans Crisis Services to WNY Heroes and Blue Star Moms, veterans groups and outreach centers were there to hand out information and answer questions.
But the portion of the evening that had the most impact came during the Flag ceremony. I was asked to MC the ceremony and being the youngest brother of a United States Marine, I try to never turn down a call to help our veterans. The weather was perfect and my oldest son, Hank, came along to be my assistant.
I have been a part of many events for vets and such but witnessing the raising of the Stars and Stripes, a 21 gun salute and the playing of "Taps" while standing along side my six-year-old son was very emotional for me. I had to choke back tears while the Honor Guard from Hamburg VFW Post 1419 fired three volleys from their rifles. The sound of the bugle playing "Taps" echoed with reverence for our fallen heroes and carried across the vast property at the Nike Base.
The Hamburg Veteran's Committee had been trying to host this special night for a couple of years but COVID-19 forced them to keep postponing. During the Invocation, Chaplain Brent Doyle reminded those of us in attendance that freedom is not free;
"Let us not forget those who signed a blank check to protect and defend this great nation". The ceremony was dedicated to the memory of and in honor of the 13 service members who were killed in Kabul in August of 2021.
Brought To Tears
Even though I get paid to talk for a living and, for the most part, am able to separate my emotions from what I am asked to do professionally, I was caught in that moment. It reminded me of how proud my mother was when my brother came home from Paris Island for the very first time. How she told everyone about how proud she was and yet, how frightened she was for him to be a United States Marine. The moment there in Hamburg took me back to hearing my dad explain to me at 6-years-old what it means to serve our country and how my brother had now become part of that elite group of heroes who are willing to give it all for us and for people they will never meet simply because they believe in and have faith in what this great county is all about and what we stand for.
Proud American Dad
To be in that moment with my son meant everything to me as a proud American and unlike my dad who seemed to always have the right things to say, I had the help of powerful ceremony to help teach Hank about the price of freedom.