On Friday, Watertown celebrated its servicemen and women, past and present, with breakfast and a Veterans Day ceremony packed with patriotism and a few surprises at the Marine Corps League’s Charles Shutt Detachment.
A number of people spoke about the importance of veterans, but the person who stole the show never served in the military and is too young to enlist.
Watertown High School junior Jeremy Ornstein delivered a rousing and impassioned reading of an essay he wrote about the importance of Veterans Day.
He recalled how as a young child his parents would not allow him to have toy guns, and protected him from some of the harsher parts of life, such as his grandparents experience surviving the Holocaust. Ornstein thanked the veterans for picking up weapons to fight enemies overseas so that he never has to worry about a foreign power invading his country or his hometown of Watertown.
Watch for Watertown Cable’s coverage of the Veterans Day service to hear Ornstein’s essay and see the rest of the ceremony on your TV or at wcatv.org.
Retired Col. Ted Ohnemus delivered the keynote speech. He said while the number of veterans is small compared to the overall population, most people know at least one even if they don’t realize it. He noted that many veterans do not draw attention to their service.
“They are all around us,” Ohnemus said. “It is not uncommon that people work with someone for years, only to learn that they are a veteran.”
He also talked about two vets who inspired him as he went into the Marines. The first was his great uncle Fritz Hedlund, who Ohnemus did not realize was such a decorated soldier until after his great uncle died. His father saved the Distinguished Service Cross Hedlund received for his service as a runner for the American Expeditionary Forces in fighting at Trugny Woods in France. After running through two waves of enemy forces, German soldiers tried to capture him on his return trip, but he shot one, bayonetted another, and escaped. Then he made three more runs (see more details here).
The second was Rich Curry, who he met while working on a roofing job. Curry did not say much until Ohnemus said he was joining the Marines in two months time.
“His demeanor changed, and he said he was was in the Marines,” Ohnemus said. “When I came off active duty, I was reunited with him and had a great friendship.”
Curry received the Silver Star for saving some of his fellow Marines during action in the Da Nang Province when a bigger Communist force attacked his platoon. During the attack, where the enemy used grenades, machine guns and rifles, Marines manning a machine gun position became incapacitated. Curry ran over and got behind the gun and fired 600 rounds at the enemy and then directed others in the unit to fire on the enemy, driving them away.
“Those of you who know him can picture him grabbing that M60 and doing that,” Ohnemus said.
See more information about Curry’s service in his obituary.
During the ceremony, Watertown Veterans Service Agent Mark Comeiro surprised several Vietnam veterans and those who served during that era with Vietnam War pins that he received from the Department of Veterans Services and certificates. He will be seeking out all Vietnam Era veterans in Watertown to present them with pins and certificates.