Fort Hamilton

Bay Ridge pauses to remember veterans

Gentile Leads Wreath Laying Ceremony

November 6, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Vincent Gentile (left) and Assemblymember Peter Abbate (right) join veterans after the laying of the wreath at the foot of the mural. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas

A patriotic mural depicting military service members was the backdrop for a pre-Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony led by Councilmember Vincent Gentile in Bay Ridge Friday morning.

The mural, which depicts all branches of the military, including a touching image of a little girl with her arms wrapped around her soldier father’s shoulders, is located on the Fort Hamilton High School Athletic Field on Colonial Road and 85th Street. The mural was commissioned by Gentile who asked artist Esteban De Valle to come up with a design. De Valle and a group of volunteers completed the work two years ago.

Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) invited local veterans, civic leaders and students from Fort Hamilton High School to take part in the wreath laying ceremony. The high school is named after the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton.

Students in the Fort Hamilton High School ROTC program presented the colors and members of the school’s chorus sang the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”

Maj. Tracy Hudgins, chaplain of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, offered a blessing in which he asked God to “help us connect” with veterans.

Calling veterans “the glue that keeps our country together,” Gentile said it is important to pause and remember those who served the nation in uniform.

“Their service defines our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Gentile said.

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Veterans Day is Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday dates back to the end of World War I, which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. In 1954, Congress voted to change the name to Veterans Day.

In his remarks, Assemblymember Peter Abbate (D-Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Sunset Park) pointed out that unlike other national holidays, such as Washington’s Birthday and Columbus Day, which were moved to Mondays to give Americans three-day weekends, Veterans Day is always cerebrated on Nov. 11 no matter what day of the week it falls on.

“It was not moved for the convenience of people for a three-day weekend,” Abbate said.

Two Vietnam War veterans who spoke at the ceremony, Navy veteran Anthony Giovinco and Anthony Testaverde, who served in a joint Navy-Marine operation in the war, urged residents to treat veterans returning home from recent wars with respect. They were not accorded respect when they came back from the war, they said. “People spat at us. They called us baby killers,” Giovinco said.

“The veterans coming home now are all volunteers. You might not always see them but they’re out there,” said Giovinco.

Although stores offer sales on Veterans Day to lure shoppers, “shopping is not the purpose of Veterans Day or Memorial Day,” Giovinco said.

“Every day should be Veterans Day,” said Testaverde, an aide to state Sen. Marty Golden. He was representing Golden, who was unable to attend the ceremony.

Gentile asked all of the veterans and active duty service members at the ceremony to help him lay a wreath at the foot of the mural.

After the wreath laying, Korean War veteran Tom Trombone said the ceremony meant a great deal to him.

“It was very nice. And the mural is beautiful,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Trombone, who served in the U.S. Army in the war, said he always thinks of the soldiers he served with when Veterans Day arrives each year. “The names start to fade as you get old, but you remember the faces,” he said.

Trombone serves as a volunteer at the Harbor Defense Museum, a military museum located at the fort.

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