As one town seeks to start what they hope will become an annual way of honoring veterans, another was finding that its established tradition was different after COVID.
Whitman kicked things off Thursday, Nov. 4 with its inaugural Veterans Breakfast, catered by the Cast Iron Café and served up by Senior Center staff, Whitman Veterans Agent Sara Lansing and state Rep. Alyson Sullivan, R-Abington. Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman stopped in to say hello and speak briefly to veterans and their guests.
In Hanson, Selectman Jim Hickey was the lone town official able to interrupt the workday to join veterans at the annual event on Monday, Nov. 8. Planned by Hanson Veterans Services Agent Timothy White, the event was held at the Hanson Multi-Service Senior Center and staffed by the Friends of the Senior Center.
More subdued than previous years, White noted the country’s — and region’s — losses during COVID and led a moment of silence for those lost to the pandemic as well as those service members killed or missing in action during wartime.
“It’s been two years since we last gathered here for a Veterans Day brunch,” he said, noting that nearly everyone’s life had been impactedby COVID. “It’s really altered our lives for the past couple of years — public gatherings, public places, whether you’re wearing a mask or not and all the things that we’ve been through.”
He said he is personally working with dozens of veterans and surviving spouses and has seen scores of people in and around the Hanson community be affected by the virus ad reminded the gathering that, to date nationally, more than 750,000 Americans have died from COVID.
“The sadness is, they died alone, and there’s a lot of pain there,” White said.
Whitman Senior Center Director Mary Holland, who came on board during the COVID shutdown, introduced herself and the speakers for Whitman’s event.
“I appreciate your service, as does everyone in this community,” Holland said.
“I want to thank all of the veterans who are here today,” said Lansing, an Army veteran of the Iraq war, was also hired during the COVID months. She asked veterans of each service branch to raise their hands for recognition.
Lansing also hosts a twice-monthly coffee hour at the center.
“I’m so honored to be here and see so many familiar faces,” Sullivan said. “We definitely have a long line of veterans in our family.”
She spoke of her grandfathers, one who served in the Marines during WWII and another who served in the Navy, and her sister who served in the Army.
“She joined the military because of [her Marine grandfather’s] service and hearing his stories,” Sullivan said.
She said veterans don’t hear the words “thank you” enough and encouraged people in the community to thank veterans and active duty service members for their service.
“It goes a long way,” she said. “The service that you gave, and your families gave, made an impact on my generation and generations to come.”
Heineman also extended gratitude for the veterans’ service to country.
“This is a great tradition to start here,” he said.
Hanson’s event featured only White as a speaker. He read the governor’ proclamation on the observance of Veterans Day, and a proclamation by the Board of Selectmen in recognition of Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day.
He also shared a Cape Cod Times story written earlier this year, about a Korean War soldier whose remains were repatriated after nearly 70 years to Massachusetts for burial at the national military cemetery in Bourne.
The soldier had already served for the final year of WWII and had been discharged, but re-enlisted in 1948 and was killed in 1950 during fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.
“It gives us an opportunity to reflect on somebody being repatriated and is back home,” White said as he stressed the importance of remembering the POW/MIA troops still unaccounted for.
White concluded with information on how veterans with “unseen injuries” such as concussions or other traumatic brain injuries that do not always qualify them for Purple Heart honors.
“Their Humvee was hit, or something like that, and they’re injured at the time, but they still maintain the mission,” White said. “They’re just following orders to ‘shake it off’ or something like that and, if they don’t see a corpsman or a medic at the time … it’s never recorded and they’re never reported as being injured. It’s just something to be aware of.”
He urged those attending the breakfast to make sure people they know in their friend and family circles that may be dealing with such situations should contact a veterans agent for assistance.
He concluded the program with the reading of a poem about the flag, before the senior center chorus — the Swinging Singers — performed patriotic songs.