Observing Veterans Day

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Coventry - posted Tue., Nov. 13, 2012
Local veterans prepare for a 21-gun salute at the Coventry Senior Center on Nov. 9. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Local veterans prepare for a 21-gun salute at the Coventry Senior Center on Nov. 9. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Stationed near the entry to the Coventry Senior Center meeting hall on Nov. 9 was a small table bearing a vase full of small American flags, a number of greeting cards with names written on Post-It notes, affixed to the top, and an agenda protected by a plastic, stand-up frame. The agenda laid out the activities for the event that had drawn the crowd to the room — the annual town Veterans Day observance.

The cards provided an unobtrusive reminder of future Veterans Day honorees; filled with scrawled messages and names, they would be packed up with monthly care packages and sent to military personnel currently serving overseas.

Manny Rodrigues oversaw this year’s Veterans Day event. Rodrigues, a Marine Corps veteran, is the commander of Coventry American Legion Post 52 and vice commander of the Connecticut American Legion. “It’s very important that we take the time to recognize those who served our country proudly,” said Rodrigues. “Events like this show that we are appreciated by the community.”

Among the local veterans represented at the event was Bill Root, a 32-year resident of Coventry who served in the U.S. Navy. “This is a great opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices and services of veterans gone by, and to be aware and prayerful for members active now,” said Root.

Features of the Coventry ceremony included reflections by newly-reelected state Rep. Tim Ackert (R-Dist. 8), who shared the story of a Vietnam veteran, injured by Agent Orange, who died “before receiving the benefits due to him.”

Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser shared some statistics regarding United States veterans drawn from the Census Bureau. In 2011 there were 21.5 million veterans in the United States, he said, with 1.6 million of those veterans being women. 9.2 million of those veterans were over the age of 65. At the other end of the spectrum, 1.8 million were under the age of 35. He said 26.3 percent of veterans 25 and older held at least a bachelor's degree in 2011 as compared to 28.5 percent of the total population; 92.3 percent of veterans 25 and older held a high school diploma or higher in 2011, compared with 86 percent of the population as a whole. The annual median income of veterans, in 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars, was $35,821, compared with $25,811 for the population as a whole. Also, 3.5 million veterans have a service-connected disability and 71 percent of U.S. veterans cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election.

Rodrigues honored the memory of American POW/MIAs via an empty place setting at the front of the room. America's White Table has served for more than 35 years as a symbol for American soldiers lost during conflict. During a brief presentation, Rodrigues discussed the significance of the table’s features, including a slice of lemon reminding of the “bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land” and salt standing in for “the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.” For more about America's White Table, and the symbolism behind its elements, see http://www.veteranscaucus.org/index.php/events/memorial-day/america-s-wh....

As women from the Legion Auxiliary folded a large American flag, Rodrigues pointed out that there is significance in each of the 13 folds. Folds representing, among other things, fatherhood, motherhood, the Holy Trinity and eternal life, result in a triangular shape reminiscent of the tricorne hat worn during the Revolutionary War. 

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