VILLAGE OF BRONXVILLE, NY — May 31, 2018 — Good Morning and God Bless America
I extend a warm welcome to all of our clergy, firemen, police officers, community organizations, distinguished colleagues in government and residents and all the young people here.
A special welcome of thanks I extend to all the Veterans in the audience including Gene Westmoreland, husband of our Grand Marshal Mary Westmoreland and a decorated Veteran himself. May God bless all our Veterans and the men and women protecting us today, may He comfort those living with pain and loss and may He never cease to shed his grace on all those who fought and died.
This year the Village has the distinct honor of recognizing only our second female grand marshal in the almost 100 year history of our parade and the first ever female, Veteran Colonel Mary Westmoreland.
Mary retired after 31 years of distinguished service as Colonel Westmoreland with her last posting as the National Chairwoman of the Advisory Committee on Women’s Affairs.
Mary credits her family example, especially an aunt who served in World War II, as setting the standard for the value of a voluntary military career. And what a career it was!
She is the recipient of a Bronze Star, Two Legion of Merits and five Meritorious Service Medals to name just a few of her accolades – and Mary continues to tirelessly advocate on behalf of our Veterans.
A resident of the Village since 1992, she has also served our community with the same grace and dedication – a devoted Rotarian, she is also an active member of the Village’s Green Committee and has served as President of the Bronxville Women’s Club.
Mary thank you for letting us honor you on behalf of all those who have served and those who died in the cause of freedom.
In researching Memorial Day over this past decade, I only recently learned that the holiday’s origin was as a day of reconciliation.
First known as Decoration Day, the first large scale observance came just three years after the Civil War’s end in 1868. Gen Ulysses S. Grant and Mrs. Grant presided over a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery as Union Veterans and orphaned children placed flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate dead.
The ceremony was patterned after one two years earlier in Columbus, Mississippi where local women laid flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in their local cemetery. I can’t imagine a greater act of patriotism.
This was all at a time of unprecedented rancor and deep divisions in the country as 750,000 citizens or 2% of the national population died fighting one another often family against family.
Though not nearly as catastrophic, as we celebrate today some 150 plus years later, we are experiencing deep national division.
I believe the origin of the holiday we celebrate today is a message to us standing here now. Those who fought in the Civil War were each valiant in a cause they believed, so committed they were willing to give their life but at strife’s end they came together for the greater good, to be citizens of the last best hope on earth.
As Americans we thankfully still do not speak with one voice, but one habit we have in coming is the ability to listen to each other.
I ask you to listen to our forbearers as well as your neighbors of different opinions and come together as they did in order to preserve liberty and justice for all and make us truly the United States of America.
I leave you with the words of Thomas Jefferson Which are just as powerful and timely ad they were almost two hundred years ago.
“A difference of opinion in politics should never be permitted to enter into social intercourse or to disturb its friendships, its charities, or justice.
Let us then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”
Thank you and God Bless America.
Note: the Mayor mentioned in addition to the warm monument on the school flagpole, a cherry tree on the corner of Midland and Pondfield Roads was planted by Bronxville Class of 1963. It is in memory of two classmates, Robert Burt, Jr and Robert McKellip, Jr. who fought and died in Vietnam.
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Mary C. Marvin is the mayor of the Village of Bronxville, New York. Share your thoughts by directing email firstname.lastname@example.org.