MERIDEN – For local Army veteran Ray Maratea, Veterans Day is about family.
After fighting in the Vietnam War, Maratea was hospitalized with a gunshot wound in his left arm at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for seven months. Upon being honorably discharged in 1969, Maratea left “what I considered my family.”
“We veterans are all family, it doesn’t matter Air Force, Marines, Army, Navy, or Coast Guard, we’re all family,” Maratea said during a speech given at the city’s annual Veterans Day observance ceremony Monday.
Maratea earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam fighting for his “extended family.”
“Today it’s wonderful being honored and recognized but may you always realize what we have done, what we are doing, and what we will always do. And that is to defend you, our extended family,” Maratea said.
“Very soon you and your family will gather at the Thanksgiving table. Enjoy your family and enjoy your extended family – all the veterans, past, present, and those that are no longer with us,” he said.
The hour-long ceremony Monday was held at the Stop & Shop plaza across from Veteran Memorial Boulevard on Broad Street. The event was highlighted by speakers and a wreath placement at the War World I monument along Broad Street. Similar ceremonies were held in Wallingford and Southington.
“We have this great day today to honor these veterans, veterans that have put their lives on the line to make sure that we remain free,” said Fire Chief Ken Morgan, an Air Force veteran. “Those that came home, we still have to support them. They went through things some of us cannot even begin to realize.”
Speakers told the audience it’s important to thank veterans every day, not just Veterans Day.
“I think far too often we take for granted why we are given the freedoms we are given,” Mayor Kevin Scarpati said. “... We pause on days like today to remember veterans, but any time day or night you see a veteran whether it’s in the grocery store or down the street, just stop and say, ‘thank you,’ because they can’t hear it enough.’”
The ceremony also included readings of two poems – I am a Veteran and The Forgotten Solider – by Thomas Sabicski, a Korean War veteran, and George DeLauri a Vietnam War veteran.
The ceremony was held at 11 a.m. on Monday in honor of the armistice signed by Germany and Allied Forces to end World War I in 1918. The armistice took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.