WESTFIELD- The city had a scaled down Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday morning at Parker Memorial Park.
City and state officials, veterans, and members of two of Westfield’s American Legion posts conducted the ceremony with masks and social distancing in mind.
Bob Ragon of American Legion Post 454 said that this would be the last Veterans Day for the post. The post was first chartered in 1951.
Ragon said that in 2019 the post began to lose veterans due to age and medical conditions.
“Then we segue into 2020, and ladies and gentlemen I do not have to tell you what a dreadful year this is and how it will go down in history. But it was even worse for American Legion Post 454,” said Ragon.
In the past five months, the post lost six members, but only one was due to COVID-19, the rest passed away due to old age. Ragon said the loss of members meant that American Legion Post 454 will imminently close.
One of those who passed away in May was Richard J. Trusty, a founding member of the post whose last wish to them was for the post to make it to 70 years. Ragon said that Post 454 would not close its doors until 2021 so that his wishes could be fulfilled.
Ragon also talked about Robert Slack, a veteran with the post that passed away over the summer. Ragon said that Slack was one of the Military Police who served during the Nuremberg Trials of members of the Nazi Party following World War Two.
He then spoke about Robert Greenleaf, who passed away a few years ago. Greenleaf was the last survivor of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor to be living in Westfield.
“These were folks that I was in awe of. I loved talking to them and they were amazing people,” said Ragon, “Now you know why they belonged to that group that was designated ‘The Greatest Generation’, a well-deserved title.”
It is expected that members of Post 454 will join American Legion Post 124 after the closure.
Mayor Donald F. Humason said he was upset that there could be no Veterans Day parade this year due to COVID-19. He said that when they celebrated Memorial Day in May he had hoped the virus would be under control by November. That has unfortunately not been the case.
State Sen. John C. Velis, a veteran himself, gave a message of unity during the ceremony in a time when the country is the most divided it has been in more than a century.
“About two weeks ago I found myself getting frustrated, confused, and just looking out at the world and wondering what is going on,” said Velis, “I see all this division I see people fighting. I see everything going on, and then I come out here today in the face of this global pandemic and I see the same picture that I would see on a Veterans Day in the city of Westfield, minus the parade, and I think that is so very moving.”
Velis said that people should stop identifying more as Democrats or Republicans, but instead identify as Americans.
State-Rep.-Elect Kelly Pease, also a veteran, spoke in his first official event since he was elected Nov. 3.
“Westfield is a wonderful city. They support their veterans not just today, but throughout the year,” said Pease.
He said he wants people to also honor the families of veterans who hold down the fort at home while their family member is deployed.
Following the ceremony, representatives from Westfield’s Home Depot donated three checks of $333.33 each to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 219, American Legion Post 124, and Marine Corp League Detachment 141.