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Thoughts about Veterans Day, 2012

Nov. 14, 2012

Last Sunday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day, which honors our country's armed service veterans.

Prior to 1954, this holiday was known as Armistice Day to memorialize the end of combat in World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. The armistice notably went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, to make this holiday a time to celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Brookfield has been home to veterans who have served in all of this nation's wars. Of particular note is that a veteran of the American Revolution from Massachusetts, Nathan Hatch, who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776 moved here when he was in his mid-80s with two of his sons who came to farm. Nathan Hatch died in 1847 at the age of 90 and his remains are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery on Brookfield Road just north of Brookfield Academy.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in honoring a group of World War II veterans who held a reunion in Brookfield. Nine men who served on a small escort carrier, the USS Gambier Bay, were in Brookfield to mark the 68th anniversary of the Battle off Samar, which was a major part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands in October, 1944. The USS Gambier Bay was part of a 13 ship Task Unit 77.4.3 ("Taffy 3") that encountered a much more powerful Japanese naval force. Taffy 3 fought so valiantly to protect the American landings in the Philippines that the admiral of the Japanese fleet thought he had encountered a much larger force and ordered his fleet to withdraw.

This battle is particularly significant to me because my father, Vernon Ponto, was on another small escort carrier, the USS St. Lo, which was part of Taffy 3. Both the Gambier Bay and the St. Lo were sunk on Oct. 25, 1944, during what noted historian Samuel Eliot Morison described as "the most gallant naval action in our history." Despite significant losses, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was a decisive victory for our country and effectively eliminated the threat posed by the Japanese Navy in World War II. Taffy 3 was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in the Battle off Samar and today there is a beautiful memorial to Taffy 3 near Harbor Drive in San Diego.

Last Friday, I participated in a Veterans Day Recognition Program at Brookfield Elementary School, along with three members of our Police Honor Guard. The school did an excellent job with the program and helped make this national holiday a significant one for these elementary school children. A particularly important aspect of the program is that veterans who are parents and grandparents of Brookfield Elementary students came and were recognized and thanked for their service.

I hope all of us take the opportunity to thank our veterans for their service.

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