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Baldwin American Legion honors veterans

Baldwin Post #246 invited community for Veterans Day

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American Legion Baldwin Post #246 honored the tender significance of Veterans Day with touching videos centering each branch of the military, 11 bell rings signifying the silent guns of World War I and a catered lunch. The day set aside to thank those who served in war time and peacetime, saw the community coming together to eat and discuss the mark veterans have left on all our lives.

Vietnam Veteran Antonio Ramirez remembers when he first got called to duty. Receiving an envelope that said Selective Service System, Ramirez opened the envelope when a subway token fell out. “They gave you a subway token, so you had no excuse not to show up,” Ramirez told himself. Grappling with the decision to go because of the politics involved in the war he said he decided that “No choice better to go and do that, than to go to Canada and never come back to my country again.”

Being put into the 196 Light Infantry, Ramirez considered he was in “the most elite unit” in Vietnam. Ramirez recounted he was involved in one tour for “11 months and 24 days… you count every one of them.” His company trekked the jungles looking for Vietcong as the Tet Offensive was occurring.

“We were losing 1,200 a month at that time…we lost 3,628 in my company I was with,” Ramirez stated to the Herald. After coming back from the war, he noticed the public was not kind to veterans, saying, “Everyone turned their backs on us--I came back and had to take my uniform off…the news did not help they called us baby killers.” Those returning started to “release that they were on the wrong side of history,” Ramirez remembered. “I’m still bothered by how people responded,” he added, “What we experienced there, the emotions, you can never put on film.”

The everlasting effect of war decades later still lingers for him, as he stated, “53 years later my buddies are still going to therapy…120 to 130 a year dying from Agent Orange.” Ramirez considers himself lucky he “spent every day in the jungle.”

Ramirez concludes that “they should teach our kids a little bit of what we saw there, so they can see what veterans had to deal with and what they done to be able to keep the freedom that we have.” He said, “People don’t realize and make that connection how important it is to have the freedom we have.”

Baldwin Boy Scout Troop 824 was also in attendance showing their support. Scout Antonio Sontana had a personal reason for coming out, he stated, “My father served as a veteran in the Navy, so that connection makes it important to me.” Fellow Scout Raiyan Brahmi takes a different approach, saying, “It shows support for the people who keep our freedom and those who make our lives easier than if we were controlled by a sort of country without it.”

Merit Badge Counselor Cathy Vodopivec also shared thoughts on the significance on the day. She told the Herald, “It is important to thank all those who have served and are still living, and also, even though Memorial Day is for those who died, thank everyone who gave us the freedoms to be who we are and to do what we do.”

Bob Hair, the commander at the American Legion, shared that this day “gives people who have served an opportunity to be recognized and respect the people who served with them in different branches of service.” He added, “It’s not really so much for us, as to reach out to the community and say if you want to do something, here we are.”

Trying to aid veterans, Hair said donations help, “The American Legion makes a lot of donations; we have fundraisers, wounded warriors…we’ve made a little progress on suicide prevention.”

The community response has been an effort on both sides explained Hair: “I’m glad people were able to come out today, and certainly in the future we’re here for the community--we look forward to seeing them and interacting with them.”

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