By Stephen J. Kotz
Under a bright blue sky, but with a frigid chill in the air, Sag Harbor veterans and other well-wishers turned out Saturday morning for the village’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.
An eight-member color guard, followed by about 40 veterans and contingents of boy and girl scouts, marched from the village’s Civil War monument on Main Street to the Chelberg-Battle Post #388 of the American Legion.
There, Tom Gardella, a former chief of the Sag Harbor Fire Department and an U.S. Army veteran, delivered a short address.
“Like many who joined the military, I followed in the footsteps of other family members, starting with my great uncle Michael Caesar, who was the first generation born in the United States,” Mr. Gardella said. “He served with the First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division and have his life in service of his country.’
Mr. Gardella said his father also served, in the Air Force. “When he passed away 15 years ago I was presented with the flag in honor of his service,” he said.
The son followed his father into the service, entering the army two months after graduating from high school in 1982. Mr. Gardella served in the 319th Military Intelligence Battalion, airborne operations, until 1985.
Mr. Gardella said the experiences he shared with his fellow soldiers had a strong influence on him. “It didn’t matter what religion, ethnic background or social status we came from, what was most important was that we functioned as a team and accomplished a mission assigned to us,” he said.
He thanked other veterans for their service and sacrifice. “I think veterans have a unique perspective, especially since only 1 percent of our population volunteers to serve,” he said. “Veterans know how to work as a team, how to put individual differences aside and be a part of something greater than themselves.”
Mr. Gardella closed with a tip of the hat to his adopted home town. “I was extremely lucky to land in Sag Harbor after my discharge from the army,” he said. “This village has a strong veteran community, and it helped me transition from the military to civilian life. Some of those veterans are here today, and I want to thank you thank you for your friendship and thank you for your service to our country.”
“In closing, let me say to all of you that have served, God bless you and God bless the United States of America,” he said.
Saturday’s event was coordinated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #9082.
The post’s commander, Harry “Hap” Wils. Thanked the Bagel Buoy for providing coffee and doughnuts for the even and thanked the Sag Harbor Elementary School for sponsoring an annual Veterans Day breakfast on Thursday, with goods donated by the Sag Harbor Bakery.
Mr. Wils noted that the school children donated a bench made out of recycled plastic that will be placed at Marine Park in the spring and dedicated to the village’s veterans.