Success in Finding Housing for Hundreds of Homeless Vets in Westchester Noted too
Story and Photos By Grace Bennett
Katonah, NY– It was a small ceremony but one still rich in tradition every bit as beautiful as its bucolic setting of greenery and blooming flowers surrounding the Lasdon Park, Arboretum & Veterans Memorial. It was also the first Memorial Day 2021 in Westchester County to remember our fallen in an outdoor ceremony, a basic feature of American life that had not been possible last year due to the pandemic.
“Today we reflect on ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things out of a sense of duty, honor and patriotism… their compelling experiences should be an inspiration and example to all Americans,” said Ronald Tocci, director of Veteran Services for Westchester. “Freedom is a gift, one with the courage and sacrifice of life and blood… while history judges the merits of each war, we must honor the spirit of those veterans who unselfishly served.”
The Color Guard’s ceremonial march to the Memorial podium preceded poignant words of respect and remembrance from public officials who had arrived from around the county. Tocci applauded Westchester County Executive George Latimer for the latitude he has received in his role, noting the county’s Patriot Housing Program as one example. “Within 24 hours of reporting a vet homeless, someone who goes out and finds that person, puts them in temporary shelter, and finds permanent housing,” he explained. “In the last four or five years, some 650 units have been found for persons deemed homeless. In Westchester, there are 55,000 vets still alive in Westchester and 353,000 with a military heritage.”
George Latimer thanked everyone for coming; he noted that yesterday’s service was the first of similar Memorial Day ceremonies taking place around the county; he emphasized that like Veterans Day, it offered an opportunity to be a day to put aside differences. He offered a special mention too for Jenna Scanlan, a Girl Scout from Yorktown Heights, who had received the Scouts’ Gold Star, its highest honor, for her and her troop’s work on preserving and creating signs for Memorials in the park’s Trail of Honor.
Latimer recalled being a young boy hearing from his father about the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II. If it weren’t for the sacrifices during that pivotal event, he pondered, “Would Adolph Hitler have ruled the world? It’s possible; it’s possible.” Yet, this monumental achievement “was just one small fraction of all of the sacrifices made by all the men and women on behalf of some greater goal.”
Memorial Day, he emphasized, was not just the beginning of summer. “Spend an hour and go to a place of a remembrance, see names on a stone, on a plaque…” The fallen were people who lived and laughed just like us, he reminded, with their own hopes and dreams. “Their sacrifice can never be forgotten.”
The full ceremony and the speakers’ remarks, which included a reading of John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, was aired live on Facebook. The service will also be accessible at Westchestergov.com
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
By Dr. John McCrae, 1915