There was absolutely no way that the attendees at the first annual Veterans Spotlight Social would let the rain outside ever dampen their spirits last Tuesday. This marvelous event was an opportunity to recognize and thank all the veterans who have been featured in my column since last September. The grand affair was hosted by the fabulous Karen Rinaldo (more on her later), and yours truly was privileged to serve as master of ceremonies.
The tone of the event was set as soon as anyone walked through the door and heard the extraordinary talents of John Salerno on his keyboard.
US Navy and Vietnam veteran Mike Campbell was introduced to World War II and US Marine Corps vet Tom Kirby and greeted him with a booming “Welcome home, Jarhead!” To which a laughing Mr. Kirby replied, “Thanks!” Mr. Kirby had not been in good health the last several weeks, but in typical Marine fashion, he rallied and attended with his beautiful daughter, Vicky.
The event was a classic moment in Falmouth history, as the room was filled with around 30 veterans and about 25 to 30 guests and family who attended this highlighting of heroes. After a rousing introduction of all our Veterans Spotlight honorees (Mr. Salerno played the respective military hymn for each veteran), the venue was brought to an emotional silence as host Karen Rinaldo read one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard, one that captured the true meaning of our prestigious gathering. Not only did she and co-owner Don Cross provide the venue, but in typical fashion Karen made the event into a showcase, from decorations to an astounding Wall of Fame that displayed all of the veteran attendees’ original photos from when they served. Yours truly provided a short synopsis on each veteran, which flowed under the beautiful music of “America the Beautiful” played so eloquently by John Salerno on his keyboard.
The highlight of the event was when Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran Colonel Kevin Doyle brought up special guest Gordon Sullivan, who attended with his wife, Lori. The former Army Chief of Staff and four-star general did not have any prepared remarks but brought out pure emotion (and goose bumps) with an absolutely stirring and amazing patriotic speech, in which he recognized veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. The speech brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation.
To be a fly on the wall for this wonderful event! To see Navy/Korean War veteran Andy Dufresne chatting with fellow Navy seaman and WWII/Korea vet Dick Sherman (the latter was involved in five WWII invasions); to see the respect that US Air Force/Vietnam vet Bob Walsh, Marine and Vietnam vet Kevin Doyle, and retired Army Colonel Rich O’Connor showed General Gordon Sullivan was simply impressive. To witness WWII/Korea Navy vet Red Blanchard sharing memories with Navy seaman and WWII vet Jim Canty, and to hear Anthony Schiavi engage US Air National Guard vet Carolyn Lucas (General Schiavi was her mentor), WWII/Korean vet, Navy combat medic Rick Williams and WWII Navy Seaman Eliot Sklar (highly decorated and involved in four invasions) was a memory; to see Korea vet Hank Corcoran chat with WWII Navy vet Bob Davis, Marine WWII/Korea vet Tom Kirby and Navy/Vietnam vet Mike Campbell was powerful; to see WWII Navy vet Ed Mayer talk with WWII Navy vet Jim Crossen on serving in the South Pacific, to see Army Korea/Vietnam vet Jim Tow and US Coast Guard vet Tom Maine mingle and talk with other veterans, and to see the pride Vietnam and Army vet John Mennitto displayed when meeting General Sullivan was a beautiful thing to watch.
A big shout out to my buddies Kelly and Cathy at Keystone Assisted Living for donating a beautiful cake, our friends at Windfall Market, and to my pals Kelly at New Wave Printing and Stu at Shaw’s.
To all of our veterans who attended this wonderful event, thank you for your service to our great country.