On June 6, 1944, thousands of lives hung in the balance as young men stormed the beaches. Many would not come back. Of those who did, only a precious few remain. The sunshine and crisp wind at the Delaware County Veterans Memorialserves as counterpoint to the weighty skies over Normandy 71 years ago.
To commemorate the 71st Anniversary of D-Day, the team from the Wild Bill Guarnere Memorial Fund was on hand with members of the DCVMA board, Double Edge Sport’s Bar and Grille (serving fantastic food), ParadoxLabs, Cigna Insurance, Damon Feldman and several local veterans and their families and friends at noon to witness the first casket flag raising ceremony in honor of Wild Bill over the grounds that will soon be his new home. Attendees stood in silence, some near tears and some with their heads bowed as though in prayer as the members of the Guarnere family began raising the flag. It was emotional, it was solemn and it was a reminder to all that the price of freedom remains with those laid to rest to defend it.
Although there are many holidays and special days that allow us to celebrate and thank the Veterans who have served our country, this particular event carried immense meaning for Wild Bill’s family and friends because it marks the beginning of the dream turning into a reality. After Bill passed, his granddaughter Debi Rafferty wanted to ensure his legacy would be celebrated by generations to come. Knowing the statue has a permanent home, knowing children will continue to learn about the Greatest Generation and knowing “Gramps” is right down the street fills Debi’s heart with pride and joy.
Debi wants everyone to come to the Memorial and learn that veterans are the brave men and women who left their comfortable lives to join the forces that fight off wars in faraway lands. They risk losing their lives, their identities and their free will in order to fight for our beloved country in wars that threaten our safety, security and freedom. Our Veterans have shed blood, sweat and tears in order to uphold their beliefs and stand by their convictions. Because of their sacrifice, our Nation remains resilient as a shining symbol of hope and freedom for all of our citizens. Debi hopes visitors come and draw inspiration from this symbol of our past, our present and our common dreams.
In addressing the crowd, DCVMA board member Guy Fizzano commented, “Today is the anniversary of D-Day, and that is what our memorial is about — honoring and remembering our military veterans, especially those that made the ultimate sacrifice.” He added that “The flag ceremony is in honor of a man who served our nation with distinction so that we can live in a country free from fear.”
Upon hearing Taps as the flag was lowered from the bright blue sky, I was overcome with heart-gripping emotion as I felt my hair standing up on end, shivers going down my spine, a lump rising in my throat and then the tears began to kiss my cheeks.
Immediately following the presentation of the flag to the family, James Clark stepped up to the mic and delivered an inspiring rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" with a distinct innocence and confidence. It may be over 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words that, to this day, unite a nation; however through James’ voice the lyrics step out and make listeners understand war, loss, gallantry, freedom, love of country and bravery. James is able to achieve the desired effect of stirring the emotions and passions of those listening while evoking feelings of the ultimate triumph of freedom-loving people and also respect for a revered nation. His voice is a gift to all who have the pleasure of hearing him as he reaches in and touches your heart and soul.
Next up, was Cigna Insurance. Representatives were on hand to present the Wild Bill Guarnere Memorial Fund with a check for $1000.00 to help defer the costs of the completion of the statue. Debi Rafferty expressed gratitude and appreciation for this contribution indicating “we are almost there!”
Throughout the day we were lucky to have patriotic music filling the air courtesy of John Useller. The music provided the perfect ambiance for this special day.
We were also lucky to have Michael Roberts, the U.S. veteran walking across the United States to raise awareness about amputee vets. He was accompanied by his dog Boots and they are beginning the second phase of their travels heading to Connecticut next. Michael is an inspiration to all as he remains committed to a promise to get these vets the help they need.
The Guarnere family wishes to thank everyone who came out to celebrate this day and looks forward to September when the Wild Bill Statue is unveiled.
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