TOWNSEND -- "Say 'Thank you.'"

"Each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say 'Thank you,'" Betty Mae Tenney read during the Veterans Day Ceremony.

"That's all most people need, and in most cases, it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded," the president of the Ladies Auxiliary at the Townsend Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6538 quoted Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, United States Marine Corps.

The members of the Townsend post did more than just lean over. On Veterans Day, they and members of the community said "thank you" in a big way to soldiers, past and present, during a ceremony held at the VFW park.

Veterans and scouts saluted when the "Star Spangled Banner" played over loudspeakers.

During "God Bless America," the veterans joined hands with each other and family members, reaching to the sky during the final phrases.

Readings, including two separate versions of "Ode to a Veteran," acknowledged the price veterans have paid for their service.

One of the odes, read by Carl Stevens of WBZ on a recording, concentrated on the particular difficulties of being a veteran.

Returning Vietnam vets got the "one-finger salute" upon arriving home.

"Your country called and you answered the call," the poem began.

"You were given a bill you continue to pay," the work ended.

The other ode, also on a recording, spoke of those who never returned, the "orphans of time, framed on mantels and pianos.



All soldiers, brothers under the flag, paid the price with "our breath and our bodies so that today we can be remembered by you," the ode concluded.

Keith Jackson, a former post commander and now district 15 commander, read "Soldier," written by George L. Skypeck.

"I was that which others did not want to be ... I have cried, pained and hoped ... but most of all, I have lived times others would say are best forgotten.

"At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was -- a soldier."

It was a bittersweet ceremony for the VFW members.

This was the first Veterans Day ceremony held since the death of longtime post commander Norman Richard. The veterans remember him fondly.

While Richard was commander, the post moved from a smaller building into the current building that has a large function hall. He was the town's veterans agent for 23 years and served in national and state positions as a member of the VFW.

The Air Force veteran, who served in Korea and Vietnam, was the go-to guy whenever a question needed answering, present post commander Russell Jobe said.

Despite his absence, the ceremony went smoothly.

Tenney, Richard's partner, not only read at the program, she helped organize it.

It is not always obvious who is a veteran, she said at the conclusion of the ceremony.

"Ask," Tenney said, "they just want a little thank you."