Dora Vasquez-Hellner: Reflections on Pearl Harbor, a day of destiny

Dora Vasquez-Hellner: Reflections on Pearl Harbor, a day of destiny

During the Thanksgiving holiday, the VFW encourages everyone to thank our nation’s heroes.

As December approaches, the VFW also reflects on an event that changed the course of history: the attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago that left more than 3,500 men and women dead or wounded and tested America’s resolve like never before. But when the dust settled on one of our darkest days, a reinvigorated and tenacious nation awoke determined to defend our freedom and way of life, no matter the cost.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke with prophetic words when he later remarked, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome … the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.” The attack on Dec. 7, 1941, taught future generations that our enemies will never be successful in defeating our democracy or the American way of life. As the years pass and many Pearl Harbor survivors succumb to the passage of time, we remain inspired by their diligence, strength and perseverance.

Veterans’ WaterFire

The final WaterFire of the season honored all U.S. veterans on Nov. 4 in Providence. At 6 p.m., 150 veterans with torch in hand marched from the Statehouse to Waterplace Park. I was among them, and along the route the spectators cheered, applauded and thanked us for our service to our country. This was my first experience as a participant in this event, and I was overcome with emotion.

As we approached our station at the park we were joined by other veterans. We proudly participated in honoring our nation with the singing of our National Anthem. That evening we were also blessed with patriotic music presented by the Navy Band Northeast and the Governor’s Own 88th Army Band on the basin stage. It was exciting to witness the pride of each veteran as the Armed Forces Medley was played and each veteran cheered their service and sang with pride.

The culminating event was the singing of “God Bless the USA.” We all held hands and sang these words from the heart. What an honor to be a part of this great event, and what a great evening to be a veteran. Thank you Director Kasim Yarn (R.I. Office of Veterans Affairs), Walmart, Amazon Studios and “Last Flag Flying,” the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association, Bank of America, Dominion Energy, Chase Canopy, the Providence VA Medical Center, along with other sponsors for making this event possible.

Post 8955

Memorial Day and Veterans Day mark the time that members of the Amancio-Falcone-Gaccione Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8955 conduct their Buddy Poppy drive throughout the community of Westerly. These poppies serve as a reminder of lives sacrificed in the First World War and subsequent conflicts. The red poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the VFW after the first national Buddy Poppy drive in 1922. The donations collected through the poppy drive are used to fund programs for veterans.  

On behalf of the members of VFW Post 8955 and all veterans, I would like to give a sincere thank you to all who graciously support our poppy drive. Your heartfelt contributions will assist all veterans and their families who have given selfless service to our country.

■The Post and Ladies Auxiliary will be host our Annual Christmas Party on Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Elk’s Club. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased by contacting Ladies Auxiliary representative Deanna Sianno, 401-443-0736, or Post representative Ray Blanda 401-596-9708. The deadline to purchase tickets is Dec. 10.  There will be a cash bar and a raffle to support area veterans.■Project Outreach: This service is available to all veterans and their families who are in need of information regarding the numerous resources and agencies that are available. Our outreach officer, Walter Kimball, is ready to meet with you the first Wednesday and third Monday of each month from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Post Home. Appointments are not needed to meet with Kimball, 401-596-0470.■The Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Office will send two veteran service officers to Wakefield on Jan. 9 to meet one-on-one with veterans, and they will have  computers to allow real time assistance. The site is the South Kingstown Senior Center, 25 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield 02859. Appointments are necessary as space is limited; please call the senior center for your 20-minute appointment, 401-789-0268. Veterans are reminded to bring all paperwork that will help the service officer with your case. If you do not have a VA file started, bring your DD 214. This event is also open to family members who qualify for assistance.

VFW welcomes all who meet our eligibility criteria. It’s through service to this country that our members has earned their elite status. If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you're eligible to join our ranks.

New members are always welcome to attend our monthly meetings, the first Wednesday of the month. The next meeting is Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at our Post Home, 113 Beach St., Westerly. If you know of a comrade or family of comrade in distress please contact Comrade Dora Vasquez-Hellner, 401-212-6377, for assistance.

This week in military history: 1968 — While returning to base from a mission, Air Force 1st Lt. James P. Fleming and four other Bell UH-1F helicopter pilots got an urgent message from an Army Special Forces team pinned down by enemy fire. Several of the other helicopters had to leave because of low fuel, but Fleming and another pilot pressed on. The first attempt failed because of intense ground fire, but refusing to abandon the Green Berets, Fleming managed to land and pick up the team. He was nearly out of fuel when he arrived at his base near Duc Co. Fleming was  awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.












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