In Bedford, young people learn about sacrifice
Gary Backus, of Bedford’s VFW Post 8401 and a VFW state surgeon for 2013-14, applauds Rep. John Cebrowski after his speech about experiences in Vietnam at Monday’s event in Bedford. (Susan Clark)
As their names were called, veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and some on active duty stood to be honored for their service by the Bedford Historical Society and the high school's Students for Liberty on Monday.
About 150 adults and children gathered at the third annual Veterans Day "A Salute for Serving," at Town Hall. The Boy Scouts presented the flags, and as the Bedford High School band played patriotic songs, many veterans in the audience bowed their heads in reflection, some wiping tears from their eyes.
Members of the Students for Liberty, Madison Earnshaw and Hadley Albiston, read the veterans' names, branch of service and years of active duty. The student organization was started by the Bedford Republican Committee in 2011.
"We're trying to get young kids, people of our generation, involved with this. These are veterans and we are very proud of what they've done," said Albiston.
Guest speaker state Rep. John W. Cebrowski, a Marine who served from 1962-67, recalled his years in Vietnam and what he learned from his experience — pride, surprise, fear, sorrow and anger, success, worry, joy and loneliness.
On Aug. 10, 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to go to war and, in 1965, 200,000 troops poured into Vietnam, he said.
Cebrowski landed in Da Nang aboard a C-130 gunship, and knew his tour was going to be difficult.
"When that big cargo door dropped down ... the lights, the heat, the humidity and the stench hit me, I knew it was going to incredible," he said.
During his first Christmas in Southeast Asia, Cebrowski said a special Mass by Cardinal Francis Spellman was organized, and surrounding them were troops with guns, rifles and mortar.
"We're celebrating the birth of our Lord and here we are in the middle of fighting a war," he said.
On Cebrowski's first mission, he and his fellow troops were trying to find a Viet Cong unit but the situation turned against them.
"They found us. We kind of walked into an ambush," he said, but pride overcame him as the Marines took hold of the battle.
Sorrow and anger overcame Cebrowski during one mission, when a man made a mistake and walked between two trees — a grenade went off and severely injured the Marine.
"I saw a lot of men die over there," he said.
But sometimes there was joy. In 1966 while on a mission, he saw the docked USS Constellation, upon which his brother, Art, was serving.
"What a joyful reunion that was. That was a heaven sent trip," he said.
Cebrowski said he is still leery about walking on level ground because of land mines. To this day, he loves rice; lima beans and ham because of the rations; hot sauce; and, "The sound of helicopters is music to my ears because of the many medic rescues."
During the ceremony, two veterans — Myles Walker and Bill Earnshaw — were given special recognition as recipients of honor blankets presented by Martha Pouliot, of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Pouliot has worked for the New Hampshire National Guard for the past 26 years.
Walker flew B-52s and a B-29 Superfortresses during World War II. He flew many bombing missions over Guam and Japan during his tour of duty. He also flew during the Show of Power as the Japanese signed the official surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri.
Earnshaw served in the Navy from 1944-46. He entered the Navy College program, was commissioned in June 1946 and served aboard the USS Terror, a CM5 minelayer. Though he didn't see battle, Earnshaw said, "The hostilities ended and we were on the verge of the Cold War."
He took part in war games in the Caribbean Islands and, from 1954-55, he served as a Naval air intelligence officer. He moved to Bedford in 1972. Earnshaw, an award-winning artist, said he was surprised and huimbled to be presented an honor blanket.
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