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Sacrifices remembered

Blossom Simmerman, center, sobs during a Friday ceremony in Coupeville honoring veterans.  - Ken George
Blossom Simmerman, center, sobs during a Friday ceremony in Coupeville honoring veterans.
— image credit: Ken George

“America will remain the land of the free only so long as it remains the home of the brave,” said Capt. Charles P. Martello, guest speaker at the Veteran’s Day Commemoration held Friday at Coupeville’s United Methodist Church.

The celebration, which took place at noon, commenced with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Mayor Nancy Conard. Among the 60-plus people who stood at this moment to face the flag were veterans and their spouses, as well as a number of county and city officials.

Prior to the appearance of Capt. Martello, Reverend Mary Boyd, United Methodist’s new pastor, offered an emotionally-charged Invocation. Her thanksgiving prayer, which emphasized the sacrifices veterans have made in the preservation of freedom, was delivered in a booming voice that reverberated from the church’s rafters.

Conard introduced Capt. Martello, who enlisted in the Navy in 1973 and is currently serving as Commander of Patrol & Reconnaissance, Wing 10 at NAS Whidbey Island. Martello was on the USS Theodore Roosevelt during the Gulf War, and has also worked in the Pentagon under the Secretary of Defense.

Martello, in opening his speech, offered to share with the gathering the pride that he feels when contemplating all that has been accomplished by this country’s veterans.

“We are truly a fortunate nation,” said Martello, “and must never forget the price we’ve paid for the freedom we enjoy every day.”

He went on to explain how Veterans’ Day was once called Armistice Day, which is “the only holiday that has observed a specific moment in time.” That moment was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, when troops engaged in world war laid down their arms and rejoiced in peace.

“Freedom is America’s heart,” said Martello. “Freedom can be maintained only through the eternal vigilance that has been its price. Freedom is never free.”

Here, Martello’s speech became more urgent and timely. He noted that while the U.S. is not to be considered the world’s police force, it’s important to remember in light of recent events that “problems abroad, if left unattended, will often come home to America.”

The Navy captain spoke of the attacks of Sept. 11. “All of us witnessed that our world had changed, and changed forever,” Martello said.

Perhaps the most moving moment of Martello’s speech came when he threw light upon some of the less heroic trials that veterans face. “As we remember our veterans, we must also remember there are those that need us,” he said, pointing out that among these individuals “many are homeless and in need of medical care.”

He also mentioned the ongoing crisis of MIAs. “They must always be in our thought,” Martello said.

There were many damp eyes throughout this talk. And when Martello delivered his closing words — “God bless America” — he received strong and extended applause.

Next came singing. Everyone joined in on “America,” “America the Beautiful,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”

The commemoration was concluded with a Benediction from Reverend Ozell Jackson of Coupeville Community Bible Church.

Veterans Day officially falls on Sunday, Nov. 11 this year. Monday will be a holiday for post offices, banks and other government offices, and schools will not be in session.

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