United States Army veteran Bruce Winchell, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, was the keynote speaker at Sag Harbor’s annual Veterans Day Parade on Thursday, November 11.
Winchell spoke at the Chelberg & Battle Post 388 of the American Legion on Bay Street after a short parade down Main Street from the Civil War monument.
Veterans were accompanied by members of the American Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary and local scouts as a small crowd of onlookers applauded from the sidewalks on a perfect Autumn morning.
At the Legion, Winchell focused on the recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“As veterans, the actions we are seeing today is troubling,” he said, “especially for those who served with honor since 9/11.
“They may be left questioning what all this means. They may have trouble processing this turn of events that is related to their experience,” he continued. “As a Vietnam veteran, I truly understand what today’s veterans are witnessing with this change of military policy.”
During Vietnam, Winchell said the country was rocked by anti-war protests and other social unrest. “There was not too much ‘thank you for your service’ going on in 1968,” he said.
Winchell concluded by pointing out the important role members of the armed forces had played over the past 20 years.
“Their courage, victories, and selfless acts of service will not be washed away by history,” he said. “To all the men and women who served and made the world a better place since the dark days of 9/11, I salute you.”
Before Winchell’s speech, Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Roger King, who was wounded while serving with the Marines in Iraq, also made brief remarks, focusing on accountability.
King recounted how the building he and other Marines were occupying had been hit by a 500-pound bomb dropped by an American plane. The pilot was demoted because of the error, he said.
“I risked life, family and fortune for the greatest country in the world with all its faults and failures,” he said. “The men and women of the armed forces only die in vain if we do not have senior leadership raise their hand, own up, and say, ‘We messed up.’”
King concluded his remarks thanking veterans and saying it is time to demand accountability for the high number of homeless veterans, the high rate of suicides among veterans, and “the terrible government health care system called the V.A.”
Following the speeches, attendees enjoyed coffee and pastries during a reception in the Legion hall.