A grateful Rochester pauses to salute its war dead while honoring its WWII heroes
Harrison Thorp 7:40 a.m.
ROCHESTER - The fragrance of spring lilacs hung as heavy as the somber silence on Monday as several hundred looked on while four World War II veterans walked or wheel-chaired their way to the Rochester Common's Veterans Memorial to lay a wreath in remembrance of fallen servicemen and women.
As they dedicated the laying of the wreath Parade Marshals Sal Farina, Navy; Leo Huppe, Army; Quintin Turner, Navy; and Roger Tremblay, Navy and Air Force reverently saluted their comrades in arms who hadn't made it back from the battlefield. Some were able to stand, but not all.
Held on a dazzlingly perfect spring day with warming sun pouring from a clear sky, the observance held a tinge of sadness as folks of all ages honored the four men who had fought in this most horrific and seminal conflict some 80 years ago.
The main speaker of the day, Capt. Joseph Smith, spoke of growing up with his dad, a Vietnam veteran who was stationed at Khe Sanh, where North Vietnam forces laid siege to the American garrison for 77 days in 1968.
It was a sustained, ferocious attack. Smith noted that his dad suffered a bayonet wound in hand-to-hand combat as
well as a shrapnel wound from artillery fire, for which he received two Purple Hearts.
He said while he wasn't old enough to remember Viet Nam, he felt like he went through it, too, since his dad lived with PTSD issues born of the horrors of war.
Worse than that, he said his father came back to a country ungrateful of his service.
Smith said it wasn't until movies celebrating the courage of Vietnam veterans came to the big screen like the first "Rambo" and "Platoon" that Americans began to recognize their true valor.
"Looking around here today, I see we are a much different country," he said as an appreciative crowd signaled its gratitude for America's armed forces with loud applause.
Johnson also urged folks that Monday was Memorial Day, a time specifically set aside to honor our war dead.
"Don't feel you have to come up to us and say 'Thank you for your service' though we always like that," he said. "But think more of those that didn't come back."
.After his speech the four World War II vets laid the wreath at the memorial in gratitude to those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom followed by echoing "Taps."