By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – As the small troop dressed in tri-corner hats and greatcoats marched up the pathway, one couldn’t help thinking of the true significance of the Fourth of July holiday. And that was the point.
Mid-Monday morning on the Town Hall Green, in a shady space behind Fairfield’s war memorial, veterans, dignitaries and the general public came together to celebrate Independence Day. The chief highlight was the reading of the Declaration of Independence by three young students in Colonial period garb. Several patriotic songs were also performed by Fairfield Warde High School graduate Sofia Filan and a poem was read and discussed by featured speaker Linda Paslov, Second Vice Regent from the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.). The event was conducted by the United Veterans of Fairfield, which is comprised of members from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, two American Legion posts and Disabled American Veterans.
“This is the 118th year of this ceremony,” noted Roger Moscater, a former commander of the American Legion Post 74 in Fairfield and the emcee for the event. To get the ceremony started, he signaled Carol Frawley, producer of the Fairfield Teen Theatre, who was leading five Colonial-costumed students onto the Green along with a group of veterans. Carrying flags, they marched up the center aisle of a block of chairs in which approximately 50 people were sitting, and made their way to the back of a platform on which town dignitaries and speakers were positioned.
Frawley earlier remarked that her students, who are participating in the summer theater program sponsored by the Town Parks and Recreation Department, “help bring us back to what the celebration is all about besides picnics and fireworks.”
Among town officials present, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said, “There’s no question that the reason we can celebrate, disagree and go through the fall campaign and elect our leaders is because of the sacrifices many have made. We can’t say thank you enough, but it is important to say thank you.”
Tetreau added, “If you look back, Fairfield had an important role in the Colonial period. This celebration is an important part of our past. So much of our history is tied into it. Everywhere in town, there’s something going back to that time. We’re one community today, bonding with past and future generations.”
The holiday had particular significance to the First Selectman, given that his brother Bill is currently serving in Afghanistan. “I emailed him this morning to wish him a happy Fourth,” he said. “He sent me a schedule of activities for his base – and even invited me to join in! It include a 5K run and special meals.”
Tetreau’s own plans included heading to the beach for fireworks. “I’m dying to see how the new Pavilion looks,” he said with regard to the new main structure at Penfield Beach, on which construction is being finalized. “The deck and restrooms will be open, and some concessions.”
Featured speaker Paslov put the meaning of the holiday in sharp focus, reading “A Veteran’s Return”. The poem compared the experience of a male soldier returning from the American Revolution in 1778 to that of a female soldier returning from a conflict overseas in 2009. For the former, he lost his home, had injuries to nurse and faced an uphill climb to return to prosperity. For the latter, she had missed her infant son, faced mortgage loan defaults, homelessness and no job. Though these veterans had fought conflicts more than 230 years apart, they faced similar battlefield challenges and post-battle scars.
Paslov also spoke of Fairfield’s own wartime experience, when on July 1, 1779, the people of Fairfield awoke to a warning from the fort at Black Rock that a British fleet had been spotted and was anchoring off the coast. Some people and livestock fled to safety while others stayed to defend the town. Their efforts included destroying a bridge that would have allowed the British to gain access to the Black Rock Fort. In retaliation, British Major General William Tryon began burning homes. As the British left, a rear guard of German mercenaries set additional fires, burning to the ground buildings, churches and ministers’ homes.
While celebrating our freedom, Paslov wanted the gathering to be aware of the important work that still needs to be done with respect to the treatment of American’s veterans. “Did you know that a woman who has served in the military is up to four times more likely to be homeless than a non-veteran woman?” she asked. “And did you know there are only about a dozen female-only facilities in the entire country, and less than ten transitional beds in the State of Connecticut for homeless female veterans?”
Paslov said the D.A.R. supports the new PFC Nicholas A. Madaras Home for female veterans in Bridgeport, and has purchased bedding for 15 beds.
Singer Filan, who has been performing since the 4th grade, said she was honored to sing at the event, her second year doing so. “Listening to all the speakers opens your eyes to what the veterans faced and continue to face,” she said.