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New Hartford: Honoring Our Veterans On The Pine Meadow Green – Video & Guest Speech

Veterans Day Ceremony Video

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Click on the image above to watch the video of the Veterans Day Ceremony held on the Pine Meadow Green on Saturday, November 10, 2012.

Veterans Day Ceremony Speech by Donna LaPlante

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New Hartford Town Clerk, Donna LaPlante, gave the following address at the Veterans Day Ceremony on the Pine Meadow Green on November 10, 2012:

“Tomorrow, Sunday, November 11, 2012 marks the 94th anniversary of the WWI Armistice that began at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Tomorrow also marks the 74th year that we as a nation, have officially observed a day to honor our veterans. The day that began as Armistice Day, became Veteran’s Day, and is a day to honor the service of all Veterans of all American wars.

Donna LaPlante

Two years ago during my Veteran’s Day address, I spoke to you about plans for an official State memorial to honor Connecticut Veterans, who served in the French and Indian War up to the conflict that we are involved in today.

The Connecticut State Veterans Memorial Inc., is a private nonprofit organization formed to raise funds for and build a state-wide memorial to honor Connecticut’s 1.3 million Veterans. Connecticut Department of Veterans’ affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz heads the organization. The initial location selected was on West St. in Rocky Hill, across from the State Veterans Home. A design for the memorial was chosen and funds were raised, but work did not progress.

Earlier this year it was announced that because of site issues, the project would be relocated. The new location is Minuteman Park in Hartford.

This location will be an ideal location for the State of Connecticut to conduct official observances, activities and ceremonies to honor veterans, because it is located adjacent to the State armory, the Connecticut State capitol building and the legislative office building. This new location is easily accessible and there is ample parking with the LLB parking garage.

As New Hartford’s Town Clerk, I occasionally attend meeting at the Capitol or the legislative office building, always parking in the LLB parking garage located on the East side of the Armory. I have always thought the Park inviting but knew nothing of its history. My research turned up some surprises. Located on the site of a former railroad roundhouse, the new State Armory was intended to serve as an anchor for the developing State Capitol grounds. When the Hartford Armory was completed in 1909, it was the fourth largest armory in the country and was dedicated by President William H. Taft before a crowd of 10,000 following a day of parades, ceremonies and music. At the time, the Park River (also known as the Hog River) flowed along the South side of the Armory.

A river? I’ve never seen a river. After the floods of 1936 and 1938 devastated Hartford, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Park River conduit, relocating the Park River underground in Hartford. The area previously occupied by the Park River South of the Armory was paved over and eventually became Minutemen Park. Then during the construction of the Legislative Office Building in 1985, the Park was stripped bare and flattened and used as storage and staging area and it was not until the 1990’s that private funds restored it to the 1 acre park we see today.

Hopefully we will soon see more progress on our State Veterans Memorial.

As many of you are aware, this year is the 200th anniversary of the War Of 1812. It was the bombardment of Fort McHenry that led to the writing of our National Anthem – the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key. What I just recently learned is that as Connecticut Sons and Daughters, we have a special connection to that event. Six weeks before the bombardment of Fort McHenry, a similar bombardment occurred on Stonington, CT. Fort McHenry had its giant flag of 30×42 feet, and Stonington also had its battle flag of 12×18 feet. The similarity does not end there – for the very same British bomb vessel – The HMS Terror – that bombarded Stonington, CT for 3 days – sailed South to Fort McHenry. The terror ship , as it was called, had 2 mortars – one 13 inch, and 1 10 inch. The firing of these mortars caused “The bombs bursting in air” of which we sing. Stonington’s battle flag still survives and is considered by some to be the “Little Sister” of the Star Spangled Banner. Now we will all have a more personal connection to our National Anthem.

Today there are over 277,00 veterans living in Connecticut, with about 6,200 men and women in the CT Army and Air National Guard. In addition about 1% of our national population serve in the active military. Based on DD214’s on file in the New Hartford Town Hall vault, I estimate there are at least 350 veterans living in New Hartford. Many of you here today have served, and to you, I would say a special heartfelt “Thank You”. I would also like to thank our students in attendance today. It is especially encouraging to see you here to honor our veterans and to show an interest in and appreciation for their service.
I would like to thank Joe for this opportunity to speak. I always find conducting the research about historic events that occurred to be inspiring and reassuring that as a country we have faced difficult times before and the unconquerable spirit of the American people has always carried us through.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.”

New Hartford Town Clerk Donna LaPlante has been the guest speaker at the Pine Meadow Veterans Day ceremony since 2008.  Donna’s father, Donald G. Pratt served as an Army Corporal in WWII in Battery C 127th Field Artillery, 31st Battalion, 35th Division. His discharge papers say he fought in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe.  

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