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Veteran's daughter: 'The best you can do is listen'
The Times Telegram - 11/13/2018
Nov. 13--HERKIMER, N.Y. -- Diane O'Donnell, a Herkimer native and the daughter of a U. S. Navy veteran, spoke about what someone can do for a veteran this Veterans Day.
"The best thing you can do is listen," she said, to attendees at the Herkimer Veterans Council'sVeterans Day ceremony at the Herkimer VFW Post on Monday. "Take down their stories."
O'Donnell then spoke about her own family's history of military service, including a relative who died shortly before the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Eddie Stewart, O'Donnell's husband's great uncle, was 19-years-old when he died in a battlefield in France, where he was later buried.
O'Donnell held a box full of letters Stewart wrote to his mother during her speech, and read from one letter he wrote shortly before he died. In it, he wrote "I'm feeling fine. I couldn't be better. There's no need for worry...with the help of God, we'll be back next summer."
"A soldier doesn't want their family worrying," O'Donnell said after the ceremony. O'Donnell also noted that soldiers often would not even specifically note where they were located, just "Somewhere in France" or "Somewhere in Germany" so family members didn't know exactly where they were.
O'Donnell also spoke about the values her father -- World War II veteran Martin "Bud" Sorensen of East Herkimer -- taught her, including discipline, hard work, courage and loyalty.
During the ceremony, O'Donnell encouraged people to volunteer to help out veterans -- including with the Veterans Council and with the Honor Flight for veterans, for which she has also volunteered.
Besides the letters, O'Donnell brought several other mementos from her family's military service to show, including photos of Stewart and his gravesite in France, photos of her father during his service, letters home, and a copy of the Utica newspaper on VJ Day
The ceremony included an invocation and closing prayer from Herkimer Veterans Council chaplain Tim Tubia. There was also the recitation of "The Pledge of Allegiance" and a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Joseph Carney, a junior at Herkimer Junior/Senior High School.
Ann Gaworecki, a Herkimer Veterans Council member who hosted the event, quoted Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" during the ceremony, stating "'That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.'"
Flowers were then placed in vases by members of the Herkimer VFW post in front of the wooden silhouette of a kneeling soldier. Mike Wainwright placed a red flower to symbolize "devotion," Bill Thompson placed a white flower to symbolize "purity," and O'Donnell's father placed a blue flower to symbolize "eternity."
VFW Commander Joe Sweet and VFW Auxiliary President Sharie Wainwright placed a wreath of honor during the ceremony.
"Taps" was then performed by Herkimer Junior/ Senior High School band members Zachary Williams and Kimberly Wood.
At the end of the service, some stood and sang "God Bless America."
Refreshments were available for those attending following the ceremony. A veterans project by a St. Francis de Sales class was also on display and available for visitors to view.
Those interested are invited to attend the Nov. 28 meeting of the Veterans Council at 6:30 p.m. at the VFW.
(c)2018 The Times Telegram, Herkimer, N.Y.
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