The annual Veterans Day service at Abbot Hall in Marblehead proved to be an emotional day for those attending, and particularly for those participating.
This year’s program was different from previous years’; town officials decided to honor WWII veterans with a commemorative coin. Surviving veterans or spouses of those deceased stood individually before a packed meeting hall to receive a very warm applause from appreciative residents as they accepted Marblehead’s token of gratitude. The coin was really just a small memento; the real idea was to give a heartfelt thanks to the “greatest generation” that ever lived.
“The journalist Tom Brokaw in his book ‘The Greatest Generation’ discusses what the generation of World War II veterans meant to history,” said Selectmen Chairman Jackie Belf-Becker during the service. “He concluded that this generation is the greatest ever produced by any society. We owe them our gratitude and admiration.”
An emotional crowd witnessed the proud veterans, many of whom were just 17 or 18 years old when they entered their service back in the 1940s, dressed in uniform, donning caps indicating in which branch they had served.
Under the direction of Amanda Roeder, the Marblehead High School Choral Group provided beautiful melodies for the day, with many in attendance singing along to “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Just before the WWII veterans were honored, the day’s speaker, Matt Tina, a firefighter and a veteran infantry officer with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke about what sets veterans apart from everybody else.
“Today, less than 1 percent of the population of the United States makes up the military force and only about 7 percent of the population of veterans from WWII up to the current War on Terror,” Tina said. “These numbers are what make Veterans Day so special. It’s a small number of men and women who raise their hand and swear to defend this great nation. … They do this not because they hate what’s in front of them, but because they love what’s behind them.”
The day’s incredible turnout is a testament to the work of Veterans Agent Dave Rodgers, who puts together the program every year.
“The WWII awards were really, really special and I was very happy,” said Rodgers, who since giving out the gift has received numerous phone calls from other WWII veterans wishing to get the commemorative coin.Medals of America Coins for WWII Service Honored at Annual Marblehead Veterans Day Service,