Veterans Day in New London
Toney shares service experience
By John Faucher
Steady rains and inclement weather did not deter a large audience from attending a Veterans Day Program in New London on Thursday, Nov. 11.
The program, sponsored by local veterans groups and the New London Middle/Intermediate School, was the first indoor Veterans Day program held in the city since 2019.
The school’s annual event was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
New London American Legion Post 263 member and VFW Post 45 Chaplain Ed Strite provided the audience with a history of Veterans Day.
Strite has long been involved in New London’s veteran organizations and affairs, and is one of the founders who helped establish a formal Veterans Day program in New London as we know it today.
When Strite concluded his address he informed the audience that this will likely be the last year he is able to attend, for various health reasons.
The audience stood and gave Strite a long ovation as he returned to his chair.
The eighth-grade choir performed patriotic arrangements and the band played Marches of the Armed Forces as veterans in attendance stood for their respective branches.
New London attorney and Marine Corp veteran Steve Toney delivered the keynote address.
Toney enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Manitowoc High School in 1964.
During his service Toney rose to the rank of sergeant and he was sent to serve at a Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu Hawaii.
In early 1968, at the height of the North Vietnamese TET offensive, President Lyndon Johnson ordered 10,000 reinforcements shipped to Vietnam within 24 hours.
Sgt. Toney volunteered.
He had not yet served in Vietnam and as a Marine, he said he felt an obligation to go.
Toney described the long flight over and its delayed arrival near Da Nang Air Force base on account of the airfield being under enemy attack.
Students hung onto his every word as Toney related his first night’s experience in-country where an enemy rocket landed at the entrance of his quarters.
Had he not turned back to retrieve his dog tags the moment before exiting, he would have been killed or severely wounded by the rocket.
Toney described the camaraderie and commitment of the men that he served with during his time in Vietnam. Most of which occurred on or near Hill 55, approximately 15 miles south of Da Nang.
“On Veterans Day and every day, we remain unwavering in our commitment to our members across generations who have served and sacrificed for our country,” Toney said. “They volunteered to make a difference.”
He encouraged every student in attendance to become involved in their communities.
“The best thing you can do to show your respect for veterans is to volunteer and serve in your community,” Toney said.