Norwich community honors veterans with ceremony
On November 11, 2003, the Norwich Community observed Veterans' Day with a solemn ceremony on the Upper Parade Ground. Professor Emeritus Colonel Harry A. Buckley, USA (ret.), Veteran of the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam Conflict and recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Two Silver Stars and the Purple Heart, was the honored speaker. A transcript of his speech follows.
"Eighty-five years ago, the guns were suddenly silent. It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and marked the end of WWI, a war proclaimed to end all wars.
"Sadly, that dramatic event did not end war, but instead gave us this solemn occasion - a few minutes to honor those who have most borne war's burden: veterans living and dead, and especially those living today. Comrades, I salute you.
"This ceremony also honors the citizens of this great land. They have supported us and given us the resources to do our country's bidding. They, as did my wife, served as we have, and earned our heartfelt thanks.
"And here today the Norwich Corps of Cadets is assembled, as it has on many occasions for the last 184 years. With this unique ceremony today it honors the service of its predecessors, and its members know that if history is any guide, many among its ranks will become veterans of the future. Some may even be required to make the ultimate sacrifice. This was brought home in an email a few days ago from our Norwich graduate daughter, asking our prayers for the pilot and others of her unit on the Chinook shot down not far from her position.
"The mark of Norwich men and women, military and civilian, is a strong sense of duty and commitment to our motto, 'I will try.' The epitome of that commitment was expressed by Major Thomas D. Howie, in the sanguinary battle for the town of Ste. Lo, France, in the summer of 1944. It began before dawn on the 17th of July, a little more than a month after the 116th Infantry Regiment suffered the trauma of landing in the first wave on Omaha Beach. Major Howe, only three days in command, led the 3rd Battalion under heavy fire through the morning mist to the isolated 2nd Battalion of the same regiment. There, on the nose of the Martinville Ridge, the two isolated units dug in just 1000 meters north and east of Ste. Lo and fought off German counterattacks.
"General Bradley's 1st US Army, of which the 116th Infantry was a component, was desperate to take the vital Ste. Lo road hub and thereby open the door to the center of France for exploitation by Patton's 3rd US Army. The badly batterd 116th Infantry was in the best position for the final push into Ste. Lo, so when communication was achieved, the Regimental CO asked Howie if he could lead both battalions into the eastern edge of the town. The remnants of the 2nd Battalion were too depleted and exhausted to attack, but Major Howie responded for the 3rd Battalion in the terms of the Norwich motto, 'I will try.'
"As his attack began, Howie was killed by heavy German defensive fire, but his action gave impetus to the entire XIX Corps. By the end of the next day, the rubble that had been Ste. Lo was in American hands. General Gerhardt, the Division Commander, ordered that the body of Major Howie accompany the first troops into town as a gesture of honor and respect. The famous picture of the flag-draped coffin resting on the steps of what remained of the Ste. Croix Church on the town square speaks volumes for the courage and sacrifice of the 1st US Army and its 40,000 casualties that summer of 1944 in the post-Normany battles of the hedgerows.
"We, veterans of today, are more likely to know other battles and other wars; but we, too, fade away hoping our service to this great republic has been honorable and worthy, and that you young men and women will b veterans of service in a more peaceful world.
"Thank you for this imposing ceremony."
email@example.com, November 2003