Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Dr. Karen Daly gave the keynote address at the annual West Hartford ceremony, speaking about PTSD and what people can do to make the world a better place for veterans.
By Ronni Newton
The Town of West Hartford continued the tradition of honoring its veterans, and at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 a crowd gathered at the corner of Farmington Avenue and North Main Street for a moving ceremony that included several speakers and the placement of a memorial wreath on the hallowed ground in the center of the Connecticut Veterans Memorial.
Guest speaker was U.S. Navy Capt. Dr. Karen Daly (retired), a Niantic resident who after 9/11 was deployed four times. She is now a psychiatrist at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Clinic.
“I didn’t join the Navy to fight wars but to save lives,” Daly said, but after 9/11 she found herself marching through the sand in the Middle East. As a member of the armed forces, she knew it was her responsibility. “I made the best of it and helped others do the same,” Daly said, knowing that at the same time her husband and son were back home participating in a protest of that very same war.
Daly said that when she returned home unharmed she knew she was one of the lucky ones, but still felt jittery and irritable. The rate of post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – is only 8 percent for civilians, but much higher for veterans, she said, impacting 31 percent of Vietnam veterans and as many as 20 percent of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The resources for veterans are much better than they were 30 years ago,” Daly said, and urged people not to hide their PTSD symptoms but to seek treatment before the “monster awakens” and becomes an “abscess that has to be drained.”
The rate of suicide for veterans and those in the military, even for those who never deployed overseas, is much higher than for civilians, where the rate is about 2 percent. “Twenty veterans per day kill themselves,” Daly said.
Daly gave some recommendations for how the public can help veterans. “Appreciate them for what they did. Sit down and listen to their stories.” Veterans need good jobs, and when they start businesses she urged others to support them. They need education, which the GI Bill provides. They also need medical care, counseling, and camaraderie.
Town Council Minority Leader Denise Hall recognized that this year on May 26 was the 10th anniversary of the building of the Connecticut Veterans Memorial in West Hartford, and gave heartfelt thanks to those who were involved, include many, like her father Jean Paul Berard, who have since passed away.
“The Memorial is a circular wall of peace that salutes those who gave their lives for our country … at each point along the wall when our armed forces went into conflict, the smooth circular wall is violently broken,” she said. Names of West Hartford veterans who gave their lives are engraved on the wall of peace, and the name of any veteran may be engraved on the “walk of remembrance.”
The green lawn in the center is a place of reflection and peace. “The soils from battlefields, cemeteries and prison war camps and waters from the seven oceans were combined on dedication day with our Connecticut earth and buried in the center of the Memorial, the court of honor,” she said. The Memorial is hallowed ground, and she hopes all who visit, including protestors, will treat it with respect.
State Sen. Beth Bye also spoke at the Veterans Day ceremony. She asked those gathered around the wall to join hands and make a circle of peace more connected, and then asked for a moment of silence.
Bye thanked all veterans, in West Hartford and beyond. “We are ever grateful for their willingness to put their own lives on the line to defend the principles of democracy,” she said.
Mayor Shari Cantor, a lifelong West Hartford resident, said that the names of her grandfather, a World War I veteran, and her father, a World War II veteran, have both been engraved on the walk of remembrance.
“We think of their sacrifices, not the veterans but those of their families, that make them able to protect our country and preserve the rights and freedoms that the citizens of the USA cherish. We are reminded today that our freedoms are not free,” Cantor said.
Cantor said we need to show our “immense gratitude,” and suggested the most productive way is simple and easy: striking up a conversation with a veteran. “There is a wide cultural gap between Americans who have no relationship with the armed forces and those who served our country. Closing that gap is necessary and is long overdue.”
American soldiers are coming back to a country that is divided, Cantor said. The gaps are between political parties, the rich and the poor, and race relations are strained.
“It’s time for this country to unite,” Cantor said. This will help our veterans, it will help all of us … We need to honor the men and women who protect all of us and we can do that by coming together.”
Kingswood Oxford’s select choir “Outlook” sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem at Friday’s ceremony. Deacon James Hickey of the Church of St. Peter Claver gave the invocation and benediction, and color guards from the West Hartford Police Department, West Hartford Fire Department, and American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96 were also on hand to pay tribute to veterans. Post Commander Moe Fradette served as emcee.
The ceremony concluded with the placement of a memorial wreath by Daly, Cantor, and Fradette, assisted by two local veterans, and the sounding of “Taps” by Peter Roe of American Legion Post 96.
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