RAVENA — The wind chill may have been in the teens on Saturday, but that didn’t stop residents in Ravena and Coeymans from coming out to honor veterans for serving their country.
A small crowd gathered in the cold at the monuments on Main Street in the village, opposite the Ravena Fire Department, to salute veterans and their service.
Commander Trip Powell from VFW Post 9594 led the ceremony.
“Three words — honor, courage, commitment — the core values of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. Duty, honor, country – the West Point motto,” Powell said. “These words mean something to veterans. They mean something to active duty sailors, soldiers, air force and Marines.”
Powell spoke movingly of honor, courage and commitment shown by Navy personnel who sacrificed to save their ship and their fellow sailors during an incident overseas this spring.
Their sacrifice and commitment is common to those who serve in the military both today and in the past, according to Powell.
“Every day, around the world, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines show honor, courage and commitment,” he said.
“For your veterans in this small, average American town, we are small but we are mighty. We care about our country and we care about our community,” Powell continued.
Powell also announced that in the coming year an AMVETS post will be established to allow all veterans, whether they served in war or not, to be involved.
“Veterans are part of this community. We believe in you, we believe in veterans, and we believe in the United States of America,” Powell concluded.
Mary Ellen Rosato, president of the VFW Post 9594 Auxiliary, read a poem penned in 1981 by Kelly Strong entitled “Freedom is Not Free.” The poem tells the story of the author seeing a young Marine and thinking about what he represented and the sacrifices those like him have made throughout the years.
The poem concludes:
“I thought about a graveyard
at the bottom of the sea,
of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn’t free!”
After the ceremony, everyone headed into the Ravena firehouse across the street for coffee and donuts.
Rosato reiterated that honoring veterans is an important act everyone should take part in.
“This is probably the only way we can show our support for our veterans,” Rosato said.
Several veterans attended the service in their VFW uniforms, including Michael Albano, who is also past commander of VFW Post 9594. Albano served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
“This had me in tears,” Albano said. “People today are more honorable about the services than they were 30 or 40 years ago. When the Vietnam veterans came home they were disrespected. Whenever I see a Vietnam veteran, I thank them for their service. God bless them all.”
Angus Doyle was a combat medic in World War II, in the 10th Armored Division. He recalled good memories from his time in the service.
“I remember all the good things,” Doyle said. “I remember waking up one morning on convoy and seeing the Swiss Alps for the first time in daylight. That was the best scenery I have ever seen, bar none.”
People he served with also hold a special place in Doyle’s heart, with one in particular standing out in his memory.
“In the states there was a lieutenant colonel who was chief of surgery. He was really a mentor to me,” Doyle said. “I still remember his name — I assisted him in the operating room and he has been someone I have always looked up to over all these years.”
Vietnam veteran Jack Covey led the crowd in the National Anthem at the start of the service, and later read a poem he penned in honor of veterans, entitled “Why I Stand.”
Covey has long dedicated himself to assisting veterans in whatever way he can.
“I do a lot of different veterans’ outreach — I volunteer at the military courtesy room at the Albany Airport, I work with the VFW, I help in any way I can,” Covey said. “Our family is steeped in the military — my son was in the Marines, my daughter’s husband was in the Army, and our youngest is actually serving in the Air Force right now. My heart is with veterans and my goal is to encourage young veterans to comfort the older veterans.”
“Just anything I can do to help veterans and their families, I will do,” Covey said. “That is my heart.”