Tribute at Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center: Remembered and honored
Veterans, their Island families, and their friends will gather at the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center on Friday, Nov. 21, for the ninth annual service to honor veterans.
Organizer Herb Foster, a retired professor at SUNY, Buffalo, served in World War II, stationed in Japan as a T-5 Corporal in the 24th Infantry Division, working on Morse code radio. He describes tomorrow night's occasion as one that will be moving, recalling the comments he's received from those who have attended.
The idea for the tribute was the result of Mr. Foster's visit to Director of Veteran Services, Jo Ann Murphy. He went in search of advice about planning a military funeral for a close friend. From that meeting Mr. Foster and Ms. Murphy (he describes her as "a magnificent person"), teamed up to create the yearly tribute to veterans, scheduled as near to Veterans Day as possible.
"We're providing an opportunity for anyone to honor and memorialize loved ones and friends who served in any of the wars," Mr. Foster says. "It's an opportunity to pay respects to loved ones," and recalls past instances when family members attending the program were given the posthumous purple hearts their servicemen were awarded.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
The program will begin at 5:30 pm with a brief Friday night service led by Rabbi Caryn Broitman. After the service, Mr. Kevin Nichols, Commander of the American Legion Post 257, will share some thoughts. He says that it's common for veterans to pass down their stories through family, but adds, "This is a good chance for families to maybe see a next-door neighbor who served that they didn't know about."
Along with Paul Bracey, who served as a master Sergeant in the Air Force, Ms. Murphy will speak. She will be prepared to answer any questions those attending might have about Veteran Administration policies - any questions that could be helpful to veterans or their families about what benefits they're entitled to or any issues that are of concern.
Ms. Murphy is interested in getting the addresses of Iraq soldiers who have a link to the Vineyard, so that she can make sure they receive care packages.
When asked about tomorrow's event she says, "I think it's nice that the Hebrew Center would take the time to do this each year to make sure all veterans are honored and remembered. It would be nice if a lot of veterans showed up."
Primarily designed to honor those who have served, the event is also meant to encourage those attending to get acquainted with each other. Everyone is being asked to bring pictures of themselves in uniform or their loved ones who served. People are invited to offer poems, readings, or simply share first-person stories and remembrances.
All attending veterans will be asked to introduce themselves, explaining which branch of service they were in, and the conflict in which they served. Everyone can speak about past or present family members in the service.
Memorial candles will be lit, Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead) will be recited, and Taps will be sounded.
Mr. Foster points out the military service is nondenominational, and encourages the community at large to attend. He says, "It's an opportunity to talk about a mother or father who served. It's a time where grandchildren can find out what a grandfather did in a war. It gives people a chance to say something. People don't have enough opportunities to express their feelings about loved ones who have served."
As Commander Kevin Nichols says, "The more that are there, the better."
Annual tribute to Veterans, Friday, Nov. 21, 5:30 pm, Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven.
Dena Ventura is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.