TORRINGTON – Members of the community met at the Valley View Cemetery for the Torrington Legion Memorial Day ceremony during the rainy weather on Monday.
The ceremony featured a 21-gun salute and the raising of the U.S. flag as well as a speech about the cost of freedom from Paul Puebla who served in the Air Force from 1957 to 1963.
Puebla spoke about the first Memorial Day when Confederate women decorated the graves of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War with the new flowers of May.
Puebla also highlighted the words of Ernie Pyle, an American journalist and war correspondent during World War II. Pyle described the early hours of D-Day which served as inspiration for Puebla as a child.
“Through his words, Ernie Pyle puts us in touch with our patriotism, our pride and our understanding of who we are and how we became the greatest nation in history,” Puebla said. “Those men were my heroes during the war years of the 1940s, not sports heroes or movie stars.”
While war has changed over time, Puebla said the valor, dignity, courage and loyalty of American soldiers has remained the same throughout the 246 years of the country’s military. One soldier who exemplified these characteristics during the Vietnam war was Mike Christian from Alabama who was a prisoner of war.
“Mike loved the flag, his country and the opportunities it provided people who want to work and succeed,” Puebla said.
Christian used handkerchiefs and a bamboo needle to fashion an American flag which he sewed into his shirt and hung up on his cell wall everyday as he and his fellow prisoners did the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Despite being beaten up by his captors who removed his shirt from his cell, Christian made another flag, “not so he would feel better, but because he knew how important it was to be able to Pledge Allegiance to the flag and country,” Puebla said.
Since Memorial Day is the day of remembrance of those who served the country, Puebla said it is important to always give them recognition.
“For those buried here who fought and died for our freedom in the skies, on the seas and on the land, today we pay them honor,” he said. “Salute them and thank them for the selfless sacrifice they gave to the country and to us personally.”
Puebla also reminded the audience the cost of freedom is often high, but many do it for the good of the country.
“We do not pay gladly, but with a deep reverence of thanks to those who have sacrificed their lives for the USA,” Puebla said. “We include them in our thoughts and prayers on this 2022 Memorial Day.”