SOUTHOLD, NY — The coronavirus pandemic couldn't stop thankful Southold residents from turning out in socially distanced fashion to honor America's heroes on Veterans Day.
Some wiping tears from their eyes during the emotional tribute, all who gathered paid solemn tribute to the veterans who have risked their very lives for the nation's freedoms.
Charles Sanders, Commander of the Southold American Legion Griswold-Terry-Glover Post 803, thanked all who turned out at the Legion for the outdoor ceremony.
After the prayer, Sanders said Americans have the freedom to worship as they please because of the sacrifices veterans have made. "I think some have forgotten — and that's why we have Veterans Day, so we don't forget."
To the children and teens who attended, Sanders said: "Your presence honors all of us and makes us feel proud, that you take the time to honor the veterans here today."
Those veterans present included 103-year old World War II veteran Dr. Irv Pittman, Korean War veteran, an "incredibly selfless, amazing Marine," Ray Terry; Korean War vet Charles Salice; and Vietnam veteran Vincent Monteforte, as well as many others, Sanders said.
The men and women who gave their lives are "part of the cost of this noblest of causes," Sanders said. "Out of blood and sweat we learned our purpose. Sacrifice, tolerance, bravery, discipline — these are the solid foundation stones out of which our nation is built."
Without the sacrifice of veterans, there would be no freedom of speech or government, Sanders said. "We are absolutely blessed to be Americans. I love America. America has an amazing past and history."
America, however, is an "imperfect creation," Sanders said. "All of us are imperfect but we strive for better. We strive to get along. We strive to increase the security for everyone who comes into this nation. We really need to remember that, especially on Veterans Day, because if we forget that we dishonor all the veterans who have not only died for this country but who have been wounded and are currently serving around the world so we can have the freedoms that we have."
Jose Perez, a vice commander at the Legion, also spoke. "Heroism becomes contagious," he said, adding that in warfare, greed and brutality are also present; the goal is to strive for the same spirit of self-sacrifice during times of peace as in war, he said. "Let us will to live as to die for our country," he said, adding that it is important to honor those who educate children – and veterans, "who carry into ordinary affairs of life a noble idealism."
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said at its core, Veterans Day is a day of gratitude, a time to thank and appreciate the heroes, the nation's veterans.
"Over 140 million voted in the presidential election last week and that's only possible because of the heroes, our veterans, who continue to serve and make sure our institutions stay protected," Russell said.
He also quoted R.K. Davenport: "Heroes aren't born, they're made."
To all the heroes and veterans, Russell said a heartfelt "thank you."
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski echoed Sanders and said it was so important to see children present. "At my age, I understand how important it is to be able to go and vote, to have free speech. We shouldn't take that for granted." And those freedoms need to be preserved and passed on to the next generation, he said.
After the ceremony, Krupski took time to speak to the Scouts directly.
Sanders also discussed the formation of the American Legion after World War I and outlined its four pillars of veteran affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and child and youth services.
President of the Legion's Auxiliary Joan Cochran also addressed those gathered: "We need unity of purpose if we are truly to move forward toward a better tomorrow."