A good morning to our clergy, distinguished colleagues and honored guests, firemen, police, community organizations, residents and our children AND welcome to the 92nd Annual Bronxville Memorial Day Parade and commemoration. Memorial Day holds a unique place in the history of our village and its traditions are many. In the last few years we have renewed our efforts to insure that honoring our servicemen and
women takes its rightful place on center stage so we do not ever take for granted those most deserving of our gratitude and our Grand Marshall, this year, George Palmer is precisely one of those so deserving of our thanks. George, thank you for letting us honor you here today.
Mr. George B. Palmer, Jr. is a Midwestern boy who was born in Minneapolis. He enlisted in the Army/Air Corp after Pearl Harbor after only one semester at the University of Minnesota.
Following expedited training, George was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and received his wings and navigation certification.
Flying only his 10th B-24 sortie over Hungary on a mission to disable oil refineries, his plane was shot down and he went from college freshman to George B. Palmer Prisoner of War No. 7910. George ended up at Stalag Luft III – the camp that was the subject of the movie “The Great Escape”. He was then transferred to a POW camp in Munich arriving 45 lbs thinner than on the day of his fateful flight.
Finally in April of 1945, Gen. George Patton’s Seventh Army arrived and liberated the camp. Within hours, George stood at attention as the general walked through the barracks.
But George’s service did not end there. He served again in the Korean War for almost two years.
Blessed to come home, George finished college and moved to Bronxville to begin a career with Lehman Brothers. Three of his four sons graduated from the building right behind us.
George, you are so very modest, but you are a hero and your hometown is so proud to honor you today. Serving our country is the noblest of callings and love of country and devotion to freedom must never go out of fashion.
And true to the character of our very special village, we have many more heroes like George and many sadly not as lucky as George to come home to Bronxville. Many went to heaven far too young.
Young men like Charlie Flammer, Princeton Class of 1941 and B25 Bomber pilot, he lost an engine and then maneuvered his plane so that his entire crew could get out while he went down with his plane. Still considered MIA, he has a nephew named after him and if you go by Christ Church a full size stained glass window is dedicated to Charlie.
Or…. Douglas von Buskirk who knew of the exploits of WWI ace and village resident Eddie Rickenbacker, who lived at 26 Prescott and belonged to the Leonard Morange American Legion Post named after another of our local heroes, Rickenbacker won the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as virtually every other military decoration having shot down 25 enemy planes and logged 300 combat flying hours, the most in WWI. Doug’s father was an Olympic fencer participating in the 1924, 1928 and 1932 games and saw Hitler’s evil up close and shared his stories with his son.
Galvanized by both his dad and Rickenbacker, Douglas joined the RAF in 1939, his only opportunity to take a side against Hitler at the time. While he was fighting in the European theater, his mom was managing our Womrath’s Book store and his dad volunteered on the village’s Housing Commission. Doug was shot down during a night bombing raid in 1941. There is a plaque in his honor in the Reformed Church.
Mike Ransom – Bronxville High and Colby College graduate, lost his life in 1968 just two months after arriving in Vietnam. He was a respected platoon leader and the eldest of six Bronxville sons.
Or……Ed Keeble, Bronxville School, Deerfield and Princeton who joined the Marines and became a gunship pilot. He kept enemy fire trained on him so an air ambulance could Medivac the injured out of the jungle. He was shot down by the North Vietnamese and he is buried at Arlington.
And there are so many, many more.
These young men were our neighbors, someone’s son, your child’s best friend in school, the boy you coached in soccer. They truly were the hero next door. Disraeli said, “The legacy of a hero is the memory of a great man and the inheritance of a great example.” Their bravery, service and sense of duty must continue to be an ethos that defines our village.
I believe their message to us, young and old, is to answer the call. Ours may not be as dangerous or as gallant a pursuit but answer; be brave at whatever you try; follow your conscience, step up when needed; volunteer even when not called.
By behaving this way we honor our heroes every day.
So as you leave today, do not be sad rather follow Gen. Patton’s advice who said, “We should not mourn those men who died while serving, rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
Thank you to all of our veterans and God Bless America.