Pittsfield Veterans Day parade, ceremony spans generations of service
PITTSFIELD — A 95-year-old World War II vet provided a rousing rendition of the national anthem. A 56-year-old Gulf War veteran delivered the keynote address.
Military service spans generations, and the young, the old and the in between gathered Monday at Pittsfield's Veterans Memorial on South Street for the city's annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Keynote speaker Curtis Janey, a Marine Corps veteran, said the highlight of his day occurred when an 8-year-old girl gave him a card thanking him for his service.
"That right there says it all," Janey said, "when a child recognizes what we did for the country."
The ceremony were preceded by the annual Veterans Day Parade, which stepped off from City Hall, and wrapped up with the annual wreath laying ceremony in front of the monument, which was originally built to honor the city's veterans of World War I.
Anthony Pastore, of Pittsfield, has sung the national anthem at the city's Veterans Day ceremonies before. But Monday's version, which he delivered in tune and a cappella, included several flourishes and pauses for dramatic effect.
"I was singing for candy when I was 4 years old," said Pastore, who served in both the Army and the Air Force during World War II. Pastore, who turned 95 last month and gets along with the help of a walker, is a member of the choir at St. Mark Church in Pittsfield. "I would have missed it terribly if I couldn't have sung it today.
"I drank lemon and tea all night long," in preparation for Monday's event, he added.
John Herrera, the director of Pittsfield's Veterans' Service Department, was impressed by Pastore's performance.
"He knows how to hit the notes," Herrera said.
Pastore, who also serves as the chaplain of the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans, was asked if Veterans Day means more to him now than it did when he was younger.
"You form a bond with all these people," he said. "They're like brothers to me. I don't have any family [left]. ... The Vietnam veterans, they've adopted me, because most of my people are gone."
Janey, who served in the Marine Corps from 1981 to 2003, said he had brought prepared remarks with him, but after trying to draft a speech several times — "I couldn't get through it," he said — decided to "talk from my heart" instead.
One of seven siblings to serve in the military, Janey mentioned the contributions of both male and female veterans in his remarks, adding that veterans who didn't see combat deserve to be honored, too.
"A lot of people tend to forget that there are people who served in the reserves," Janey said. "They are every bit as important as each and every one of us today."
Janey also spoke of serving with Gen. Carol A. Mutter, the Marine Corps' highest-ranking female officer and the first woman in the history of the the U.S. armed forces to be attain the rank of three-star general.
"She was no joke," Janey said. "She was a Marine's Marine. ... So for those men out there that used to think that women can't handle the task, all you have to do is look to your right and to your left to those women veterans that are out there and I guarantee you they stood the test of time.
"And that's what's really important about today," Janey said, "to recognize each and every one of us; the men and the women."
Pittsfield native George Winters, of Easthampton, a Vietnam War veteran, received the Veteran of the Year Award. Wounded twice while on active duty and currently using a cane, Winters walked slowly up to the podium to receive his honor.
"All this stuff that I did for vets, I did it in memory of my brothers who didn't come home," said Winters, his voice cracking with emotion. A member of several veterans organizations, Winter then turned around slowly and went back to his seat.
Although veterans of several wars attended the ceremony, the majority of those in attendance had gray hair. Herrera said it often takes time before those who served recognize the importance of Veterans Day. He used himself as an example.
"I retired [from the military] in 2009 and for a while I didn't want anything to do with military organizations," he said. "I just needed to decompress after 30 years, just step back from everything and find my own way.
"But after a while you start to get the itch for the camaraderie and to be heard by people who know what you're saying," he said. "I know, that in time, [the younger vets] are going to experience that very same sentiment."
Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at email@example.com or 413-496-6224.
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