Monday, May 26, 2014
By James Lomuscio
As Grand Marshal Bob Satter watched a seemingly endless stream of Memorial Day floats pass by the viewing stand in front of Westport Town Hall today, everything seemed pleasantly surreal.
“Today is one of the greatest days I’ve ever experienced,” said the decorated World War II pilot, 90, who in 1944 flew 25 missions in Europe, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. “I’m lucky to be standing here. Our original squadron had 18 crews and 12 of them were lost.”
“When they called me and told me about being grand marshal, my knees buckled,” recalled Satter, a 60-year town resident who for 43 years operated a photography studio in the Greens Farms section of town.
He paused for a moment to think about the reality of war, a reality often eclipsed by tales of glory.
“Flying combat mission in Europe in 1944 can be summed up in one phrase—hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror,” Satter said.
Not far from him and dressed in his Navy uniform, lifelong Westporter Malcolm Watson stood at attention watching the parade go by.
“It’s a very personal thing for me,” said Watson, who served on a river assault boat in Vietnam from 1969 through 1970. “My function here to to remind these people about it.
“This is about the people who didn’t survive,” he added. “It’s not for us.”
Jeff Ford, a Westport resident since 1959, was there to celebrate his father Clark Ford, an Army first lieutenant in Germany after the Korean Conflict. Clark Ford came home, moved to Westport and spent many active years working for the Y’s Men before he died seven years ago.
Today Jeff Ford honored his father’s memory by appearing on the Y’s Men float, a model of a World War II landing craft commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing June 6, 1944.
“I’m doing this as a tribute to my dad,” Ford said, dressed in his father’s Army jacket and boots, sporting his helmet and canteen.
Ford’s sister Suzanne, also dressed as a soldier, her hair tucked up under her helmet, also appeared on the Y’s Men float. All had to assume a pose for 45 minutes.
“My feet are asleep,” Ford noted, saying his father’s boots were a little tight.
“I always felt close to my dad, but on this day I feel especially close,” he added.
Those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice were on the mind of Tony Esposito, owner of Antony’s Hair Styling and barbering in Westport. Dressed in his Navy outfit, Esposito, who served during Vietman from 1964 to 1969, recalled his work as a machinist third class.
“It’s really emotional, especially with all that’s going on in the world today like in Afghanistan,” he said about the servicemen who did not come home.
First Selectman Jim Marpe, in his first Memorial Day address that was made prior to the placement of the memorial wreath, a firing detail and the playing of “Taps” by the Staples Band buglers, praised not only those who died in the service of their country, but all who served. He made a point to single out Bill Vornkahl, parade organizer for the past 44 years, as well as Satter.
“Here in Westport we are truly privileged to be served by dedicated and talented residents who defend our country and work for the betterment of our town,” he said.
“When we leave here today, celebrating Memorial Day at the beach, at barbecues and with our families, please take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the day, and to remember all those who have served, those who continue to serve and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of us all.”
For Ernie Arnow, 90, who served in a MASH unit in the Pacific during World War II, there was no shortage of thanks.
“It’s nice to be here and see everyone, and it’s unexpected when people come up and thank me,” he said.
Posted 05/26/14 at 05:38 PM Permalink