PORT JERVIS – Port Jervis’ traditional Veterans Day Parade and Orange Square ceremony were cancelled on Thursday evening as Hurricane Nicole was expected to impact the region on Friday morning.
The community was instead invited by Port’s VFW Post #161 and Tri-States Naval Ship #7241 to gather at the VFW post for an indoor ceremony, tribute to veterans, and buffet.
Post 161’s Past Commander Hank Dunn served as master of ceremonies and spoke about hometown heroes who carry physical and emotional scars from war. As a Vietnam veteran, he noted that he is aware of many aspects of local veterans’ service years, yet only recently learned of several wartime medals of valor earned by two.
“I know these veterans well, but I did not know that Ron Mercurio was awarded a Silver Star. That’s a step below a Medal of Honor. Gary Wyant was awarded a Bronze Star. Gary served in Vietnam during one the deadliest days and deadliest years of the war,” Dunn said as he read excerpts from a newspaper article about this day. “Twenty-six Americans died on that day in Vietnam, November 27, 1968. Gary is quoted in this article and was involved in one of the deadly battles of that day.”
City Councilman-at-Large Stan Siegel served in the Army.
“Veterans Day7 means to me to thank all the veterans for their service to our country, whether in wartime or not. Our country is great because of them,” he said.
Mayor Kelly Decker urged everyone to talk to veterans, and to ask about their service. He acknowledged that not all veterans are able or ready to share their stories, but if approached and encouraged, and if ready, often will.
“It’s amazing the stories each veteran has to tell when they are ready, and if they are ready, to tell their stories. It is important for each of us to learn about each of you, and how you served our country,” Decker told the veterans in attendance. “Today is a day about all of you, and a special day for each of you. I encourage you to go out and enjoy this day.”
One 12-year-old boy, Jaxon Grillo of Port Jervis, wore his grandfather’s uniform to the event. He said he wanted to honor his grandfather’s service and was proud of him. Other children, including two of Jaxon’s friends, were praised for attending, thanking the veterans, and distributing cards made by children from Anna S. Kuhl School.
“I wanted to thank the veterans here because they served our country,” Grillo said. “They were brave enough to fight in wars and keep us safe.”