Monday, November 18, 2019

Gratitude on Veterans Day

More Straight Talk


On Monday, November 11th, at 11 AM Marco Islanders, just like Americans from throughout this nation, will come together to say thank you to those that have, are and will serve this nation in uniform. Men and women who served in peace time and in conflict are to be honored on that day.

The history of this historic day goes back to November 11, 1919 when President Wilson declared it Armistice Day, in recognition of the sacrifice by Americans and our gratitude for the victory in World War I. Seven years later Congress would pass a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926 which requested that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe November 11th with appropriate ceremonies. In 1938 a Congressional Act was passed designating November 11 of each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.”

In 1945 after the end of World War II, veteran Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama spearheaded a move to expand Armistice Day to celebrate the contributions of all veterans, not just those from World War I. It was President Eisenhower who signed into law the bill on May 26, 1954 and Congress amended the act less than a month later replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans.”

President Reagan honored Weeks with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force behind the establishment of the national holiday and declared Weeks as the “Father of Veterans Day.”

On Monday we will continue that tradition of honoring all those that have served during a solemn tribute to both men and women who have worn the uniform, remembering that this nation stands as the vigilant leader of the free world during both peace time and in conflict.

Veterans Day is a special day to pay our respects to all those that have served this great nation. Whether during a time of conflict or during peace time we honor all those that have served and worn the uniform. This differs from Memorial Day which honors those that have lost their lives in service to their nation, but serves an equally important responsibility to say thank you for those that have served and helped to protect our liberties and freedoms which we all too often take for granted.

My dad, “Hio” Stefanides, was one of those who rushed to sign up shortly after Pearl Harbor. His story is not much different than that of many of the 16.1 million Americans who did serve during World War II. He enlisted in the Navy and served on the U.S.S. Salinas, a Fleet Oiler which saw service in both the Atlantic and the
Pacific Fleets.

It was here that he met John Soprano from Norwood, Pennsylvania. He, like my dad was born as a first generation American. My dad’s parents having immigrated here from Northern Greece and John’s parents from Italy. They quickly bonded and became great friends, sharing shore leave and visiting each other’s homes when they could, but spending a considerable amount of time back in my home state of New Hampshire, as they would find themselves docking in Boston or Portland, Maine quite frequently during their deployments in the North Atlantic.

This special bond that was brought about due to war, quickly grew to a friendship that would be sustained throughout their lives. That friendship was the catalyst which brought together the man I would know as “Uncle John” with my dad’s sister. They would soon marry after John’s discharge from the Navy.

We as kids would listen to the stories and memories they would share when John and his family would come north to visit, or when we, on that rare occasion would have the opportunity to go south to Norwood, Pennsylvania, to the Soprano home. As kids we would be delighted to watch the adults laugh so hard, they could hardly catch their breath, and the memories of those reunions would be with us for a lifetime.

The bond between our two families would be something extremely special to me, my sister and my brother, especially after the passing of my father from cancer, when he was only 45 years old. That relationship and the unification of our two families came about as a result of the worst of circumstances but helped to sustain both sides of our families during some of the darkest of times as the decades passed.

Our parents are gone now, from both sides, but my faith tells me they are united again telling the stories that will bring joy to the hearts of all that surround them. The unification of the Soprano and Stefanides families was a great gift for which I will always be thankful for. I’ve honored both my dad and my uncle John with a special paver at the Veterans Memorial at Veterans Community Park in the section I call the “Walk of Honor,” which leads to the circle honoring all branches of the services.

I have attempted to make that special story permanent in what I describe as the “Walk of Honor.” You can find it in a paver at the Marco Island Veterans Memorial, as a tribute of their children’s thanks for their service to their country.

Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at
Stef@coastalbreezenews.com

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