The threads of history converged in parallel this Nov. 11 in Valley Stream and across the country.
Taking place amid the pandemic, Armistice Day as Veterans Day was initially known, was itself established in 1919 as the Spanish Flu ravaged the world population, but this year the day of recognition for the country’s military service members took on even more added significance, marking the first since the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on Sept. 8.
In Valley Stream, more than two dozen residents along with firefighters, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Scouts BSA members gathered at the Village Green band shell for a simple ceremony, albeit replete with World War II-era Jeeps and a Humvee along with accompanying world wars re-enactors.
Valley Streamer Danny Pough, attending with his 9-year-old grandson Everest, said he wanted to show him some of the history of military service in America.
As an Army veteran serving during the tail end of the Vietnam War, Pough never saw combat, with the United States announcing it was pulling out of the country while he was still in basic training. But Pough came from a military family.
In addition to his grandfather, Everest said his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were also military veterans. “I think it’s so great what they did for our country,” he said.
Korean War veteran Dr. Stanley Feld served more than 16 months total on the peninsula, both during and after the war.
At 90 years old, he said at the event, “I’m lucky I’m still here.”
Of his service, Feld recalled the evening when hostilities were set to stop.
It was nearing 10 p.m. on July 27, 1953, and 12 hours prior the armistice agreement between the armies north and south of the 38th parallel had been signed. As a member of the Army 7th Infantry Division, Feld’s group had been locked in nearly a month-long, stalemated battle for control Pork Chop Hill (named for its appearance).
In anticipation of the cease-fire, Feld’s division had been ordered to retreat, but fighting continued to the last minute.
Still nearby, he stepped outside his tent to see the sky, “all lit up,” with the tracers of machine gun and artillery fire, he recounted. With the end of the war so imminent, he said, “I’m asking myself who’s getting wounded at this last minute? Who’s getting killed?”
Although a day of gratitude: “We’re here to give thanks,” Mayor Ed Fare said during a brief ceremony, “and say thank you to all the veterans who served, who are serving, who will continue to serve and serve in the future,” the pall of the coronavirus still hung heavy over the ceremony.
Kevin Hill, commander of VFW Post 1790 and a 1991 Navy Persian Gulf War veteran, described the struggle of sustaining operations at the post during the pandemic, and getting aid, whether it be personal protective equipment or food to poor, struggling and older veterans.
“Every day it’s up and down,” he said, but standing with his post members who are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said it was their duty to support the generations veterans that came before them.
“If we didn’t have the World War II veterans, and the Vietnam veterans pushing us, we’d be lost,” he said. “… We all have to give back.”