Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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Despite Rain, Grand Marshal Vebell Keeps Revelers Riveted

By James Lomuscio

He didn’t arrive in a convertible, a sash across his breast and waving to cheering crowds. But Memorial Day Grand Marshall Ed Vebell, 96, held the overflow crowd riveted today in the Westport Town Hall auditorium.

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Westport veteran Ed Vebell, 96, grand marshal, regaled the Memorial Day Town Hall ceremony with stories that brought a standing ovation. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Even though the parade had been canceled because of rain, and some felt cheated as the sun peaked in through the high, arched windows, Vebell did something few, if any, grand marshals have done.

He had attendees cheering for more of his stories as the artist-illustrator, Olympic fencer and town resident since 1953 turned European theater raconteur.

From his wheelchair, the man whose artistic, on-the-scene talents had brought to life the Nuremberg trials with pen and ink illustrations now at the U.S.  Holocaust Memorial Museum, Vebell proved his skill as a storyteller, too.

Marpe: ‘We Celebrate the Ability to Disagree’

Here is the text of First Selectman Jim Marpe’s address today at the Town Hall Memorial Day ceremony.

Good morning. It is an honor and privilege to be here today. First, I must salute the great gentleman we all love to call Mr. Parade, Bill Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council.

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Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe today addresses a packed Town Hall Memorial Day ceremony. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Bill has orchestrated this special event for the last 47 years, in a true demonstration of love and commitment to his town and country. And thank you to everyone who has a role in making this great parade and these ceremonies happen.

In just a few moments, we will hear from this year’s Grand Marshal, Edward Vebell. Ed is a World War II Veteran who joined the Air Force in 1942. 

He was a member of the 904th Camouflage Unit and was dropped behind enemy lines to sketch enemy equipment and positions. 

A Town Hall Tribute to Grand Marshal

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Ed Vebell, 96, grand marshal of this year’s Memorial Day parade, received a standing ovation from attendees at the Town Hall Memorial Day ceremony after the parade was canceled because of inclement weather. Vebell recounted his experiences during World War II and his work as the only artist allowed to cover the 1945, post-war Nuremberg, Germany war trials, which prosecuted members of the Nazi leadership. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

Fire Department Honors ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’

By James Lomuscio

Unlike last Memorial Day when he spoke via satellite from Afghanistan to his fellow firefighters, Westport Firefighter James Branson, a medic in the Naval Reserve, gave today’s address back home.

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Firefighter James Branson addressed today’s Westport Fire Department Memorial Day ceremony in person this year.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

His words at the Fire Department’s memorial service at Fire Headquarters were sobering, fitting for a rainy day in which the parade had been canceled, the unofficial start of summer postponed.

Branson spoke about the 400,000 graves in Arlington National Cemetery, the 1.8 million service members killed since 1775, and the 52,000 wounded since Sept. 11, 2001, “physical and emotional wounds.”

“Today is for those who never came home and for those who brought the war home with them,” he said referencing those who “lost the final battle to suicide.”