By LIZ BUTTON
Rye’s American Legion Post 128 presented a solemn and moving ceremony at the city’s Village Green to commemorate Veterans Day, the federal holiday that honors all U.S. soldiers for their service to their country.
Monday’s day of remembrance was conceived in 1918 at the end of World War I, when the armistice with Germany went into effect.
Led by Post Commander Tom Saunders, Rye’s 2013 event, on Nov. 11, featured distinguished guests and speakers including Mayor Douglas French, state Assemblyman and former Rye mayor Steve Otis and New York State Sen. George Latimer.
Also in attendance were the members of the American Legion Post, including former U.S. Army captain and World War II vet John Carolin, 98.
Rye resident and author Lee Woodruff gave the morning’s keynote speech. Woodruff became an advocate for wounded veterans when her husband Bob Woodruff, an anchor at ABC, sustained a serious head wound in Iraq in 2006 after a roadside bomb exploded.
Lee was following in her husband’s footsteps Monday: Bob Woodruff, who made a full recovery and returned to work, was the guest speaker at the city’s observance in 2008.
Woodruff, who is also a CBS News correspondent, heads the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which she and her husband started to raise money so that wounded veterans can get the help they need as they reintegrate into their communities once they return home from the battlefield.
Woodruff’s speech drove home the common theme of the morning: there are many actions people can take to help a veteran besides just saying thank you. Charities like the Bob Woodruff Foundation donate to organizations that provide services for returning vets, like unemployment relief, caregiver services and education aid.
When it comes to veterans, one disheartening statistic can be seen in the unemployment rate in this country. For 20 to 24-year olds the rate is 7 percent; for American veterans within the same age group, it is much higher at 23 percent. Looking at the aftermath of wars like those in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, the story of veterans after they return home is often a tragic one. Soldiers come back with physical scars like amputated limbs and mental scars like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that can prevent them from moving forward with their lives.
“Unfortunately battles fought long ago have to be fought again and again,” Otis said in his remarks at the ceremony.
When they return home, today’s young soldiers feel more isolated and anxious than veterans from earlier wars, since so few of this generation choose to serve their country, Lee Woodruff said, but that need not be the case.
“We have such a chance to do more than just thank them for their service,” she said. “We can put our words in to action.”