Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
39°
Cloudy
Hi 47° | Lo 31°

Veterans Day reflections in Amherst on ‘price of liberty’

  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marine veteran Tom Coogan, of Florence, left, joined by Army veteran Juan Perez, sings the national anthem as the flag is raised on the Amherst Common during the Veterans Day program on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Veterans John Janse, left, (Navy), Joe Ryznic (Army) and Bob Joy (Air Force), representing the Navy, Army and Air Force, respectively, take part in the Veterans Day program on the Amherst Town Common.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Navy veteran John Janse takes part in the color guard for Amherst's Veterans Day program on the Common on Sunday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Terry Fenstad of Amherst, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, was master of ceremonies during the 45-minute ceremony on the Town Common in front of Town Hall.

The main speaker was Victor A. Nuñez Ortiz, a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and former Marine who served in Iraq.

Nuñez, vice president and director of Veterans Advocacy Services, which helps military veterans navigate the process of claiming benefits from the federal Veterans Administration, came to the U.S. at age 7 when his family fled the civil war in his native El Salvador.

“I knew no English and my family was poor,” he recalled. After joining the Marines, Nuñez served five years, including deployment as a combat engineer in Iraq.

Upon his return, he became involved in Veteran Education Project, an Amherst nonprofit that encourages military veterans to share their personal stories with students in local schools.

“It helped me heal,” he said, noting that veterans “come home to a nation that doesn’t understand what they’ve been through.”

Fewer Americans join the military today and serve in combat than ever before, Nuñez said. Fenstad, who is commander of American Legion Post 148 in Amherst, said 11.2 percent of eligible men joined the service during World War II, 4.3 percent joined during the Vietnam War and fewer than half a percent have served in the global war on terror since 2001.

Nuñez said he helped found Veterans Advocacy Services because he became “deeply concerned about the way veterans were treated when they came home.” Those who served found it difficult to access services through the VA, he said.

Some veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer brain injuries, which he termed “the signature injury” of modern combat, at higher rates than previously, he said. Veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 18 a day, he said.

Organizers of the event have said there is a crisis among veterans, with many suffering from substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, and the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. Veterans Advocacy Services “shields veterans from the bureaucracy” that can prove frustrating and helps them access needed services, Nuñez said.

“We deserve nothing less,” he said. “And we follow up, which many government agencies don’t do.”

For information, go to the group’s website, www.veteransadvocacyservices.org.

“Veterans Day is really one of our most important holidays,” Stephanie O’Keeffe, chairwoman of the Amherst Select Board, told the gathering.

“We are in our 11th year of war in Afghanistan,” said Town Manager John Musante, “We hope (all those serving there) will be home soon.”

“The price of liberty is always great,” said the Rev. Michael Twohig of the Newman Catholic Center at UMass.

The ceremony concluded when Fenstad and Coleen Cauley of Amherst, a U.S. Marine Corps veterans and now a graduate student at UMass and commander of VFW Post 754 on Main Street, raised the American flag from half mast to full staff as Sue Dunbar, who teaches music to Amherst elementary students, played the national anthem on trumpet.

Two of the eldest veterans in attendance were Tom Coogan of Florence, 91, a Marine veteran of World War II and Korea, and Bob Joy of Amherst, 81, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

Etta Walsh can be reached at ewalsh.gazette@gmail.com

Related

Northampton salutes veterans with parade and ceremony

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NORTHAMPTON — Wayne Lynch woke up Sunday knowing he’d participate in the city’s annual Veterans Day festivities — it’s something he does every year. The Northampton native just didn’t know he’d be one of the stars. Lynch, who retired in July, admitted to being a tad surprised when Mayor David J. Narkewicz asked him to step to the podium shortly …

US pays tribute to sacrifices of veterans

Sunday, November 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES — From sea to shining sea, the nation paid tribute to its members of the armed services Sunday, both with somber traditions such as a Virginia wreath-laying ceremony attended by President Barack Obama to honor those who didn’t make it back from active duty, and more lighthearted perks including red-carpet treatment at Las Vegas casinos for those who …

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.