Community Bands Together to Celebrate Veterans
Published in the Lockport Legend
Local veterans and community members gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5788 on Sunday, Nov. 10, to honor the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country.
In recognition of Veterans Day, Mayor Streit hosted his annual story contest to encourage veterans to share their experiences with the community. The event opened at 10:30 a.m. at the VFW Post 5788, located at 1026 E 9th St., with coffee, doughnuts and mingling. VFW service officer, Jack Picciolo kicked off the event with a brief prayer before handing it over to the Mayor.
“Stories are integral to our culture and to our community, and when it comes to veteran’s stories they can be inspirational; they can be surprising; they can be healing,” said Mayor Streit. “When we share with each other we’re connecting those stories to our community and to each other.”
Mayor Streit opened with an anecdote from the time he served in the U.S. Navy. After a heartwarming story of finding spirituality in the military, Mayor Streit opened the floor to the veterans present before him. Bill Molony took to the podium to share his heart wrenching story of active combat, survival and life after the Vietnam war.
“In previous years I had funny stories, but that’s not what I had in mind for today. In January of 1966 I was 21 years old and I was deployed to the Central Highlands of South Vietnam for a one year tour as a combat infantryman,” said Molony. "The chances of a well-trained infantryman spending a year in combat and surviving without being killed or seriously injured wasn’t very good, and I wasn’t even well-trained. I wasn’t well-trained at all.”
Molony went on to say that the full-strength, 44 man platoon that he started the war with had dwindled into nothing and he was the only one left standing. Molony returned home in 1967 and for the next 40 years kept himself busy enough to avoid the memories of war, he said.
“You come back from a war like that and you try to pick up your life where you left off but you don’t realize at the time that you are not the same person that went away a couple of years earlier,” said Molony .
Following several insightful stories, Mayor Streit invited Illinois State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Terrant up to the front of the room. The Senator attended the event to show support for the local veterans and for her father who served in the Korean War and as a marine. She expressed her gratitude for those who served and who continue to make an impact on the community.
The ceremony ended with a brief moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifices our veterans have given.
“This is Veterans Day. This is not a day honoring the dead who gave the ultimate sacrifice, but we’re here to honor all who raised their hand and pledged an oath to support the United States,” said Picciolo. “It’s a day any veteran should be thanked for their service whether they did 30 days, two years as a draftee or volunteered for 20 years.”