PHOTOS: New Canaan Marks Memorial Day with Parade, Ceremony

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Herr of First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan addressed more than 300 residents gathered at Lakeview Ceremony following Monday morning’s Memorial Day parade to “remember and give thanks for the patriots who have given their lives in service to our great nation and the service of peoples around the world who desire justice, freedom and peace.”

“Today we honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Constitution and our democracy,” Herr continued during an opening prayer to the ceremony organized each year by the Howard M. Bossa and Peter C. Langenus Post 653 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “We are free to worship here today because they were brave, and we live by the light of the flame of liberty they kept burning. As we remember those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms, we also pray for other peoples in the world who seek democracy—especially the people of Ukraine and Russia, and pray for a just and lasting peace between those people. We also remember those innocent victims in places like Buffalo and Uvalde, and how truly fragile a free a peaceful society is. As we honor those from all races and religions who served in the Armed Forces, we pray for courage and wisdom to be a people who heal our divisions, right our wrongs and bring unity here at home.

New Canaan’s Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony Return [PHOTOS]

Brian Platz’s grandfather was in his mid-20s, with three children, when he was drafted into the U.S. Marines toward the end of World War II. 

Platz on Monday morning recalled that his grandfather “would tell us that we were actually running out of men.”

“The draft began, if I remember him correctly, with single men aged 18 to 26,” Platz—himself a U.S. Marines veteran, known to many New Canaanites as the town’s chief building official—told about 300 people gathered at Lakeview Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony. “Then went to married men 18 to 26. Married with one child. Married with two. Married with three.

‘We Would All Do Right by Remaining Committed to Our Veterans’: Town Holds Annual Ceremony on God’s Acre

For Tyler Nash, a former U.S. Army infantry officer who served for nearly seven years, primarily with the 75th Ranger Regiment and 10th Mountain Division, the two things that make the contributions of veterans so special are conviction and love. Citing a 1906 quote from President Teddy Roosevelt, that “a just war is in the long run far better for a man’s soul than the most prosperous peace,” Nash on Wednesday morning told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered at God’s Acre for the town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, “This isn’t a quote that advocates for violence or war.”

Roosevelt followed by saying, “We should as a nation do everything in our power for the cause of honorable peace,” Nash said, addressing residents, town officials, police, firefighters and EMTs wearing masks and spaced apart before the Wayside Cross (itself a WWI memorial) on a warm, overcast day. “But it is a a quote about conviction,” Nash said. “The United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We were created as a nation to face and overcome obstacles head-on as a unified people, and whether known or not, we represent the hopes and dreams of people all over the world.

‘They Came Home to New Canaan’: Town Observes Veterans Day in God’s Acre Ceremony

New Canaan’s Steve Benko often recalls a photo that used to hang in his grandparents’ Summer Street home. It showed John and Elizabeth Benko sitting together on their front porch, while in the window hung a banner with five gold stars, indicating that five sons were in service of the nation. 

Steve, Paul, John, Lewis and William Benko had volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in the months that followed the Pearl Harbor attack. Lewis Benko, a great local athlete, enlisted in the U.S. Marines in September 1942. He was wounded in July 1944 at Saipan, rejoined his unit five months later, and was killed in action during the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945—one of 38 New Canaan men to die during World War II. 

On Monday morning, Benko quoted something that his uncle Lewis said to Elizabeth as she dropped her son off at the train station prior to his leaving New Canaan for what would be the last time. “He says to my grandmother, ‘Gosh, I would never want to live anywhere else but this place,’ ” Benko told more than 150 residents gathered at God’s Acre on a clear, cool morning for the town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, quoting from a 1946 Gold Star book featuring stories about the servicemen who never came home.