Winnetka Salutes Local Veterans in Ceremony
Humble heroes are honored at annual Woman's Club event.
Before he was sent to fight in Vietnam in 1964, Clifford Washington said he put up with discrimination at restaurants that didn't want to serve him because he is African-American.
"I would just get up and leave," he said. "Racism was a common thing back then."
But a funny thing happened when he was pinned down under fire alongside the white soldiers in his integrated unit.
"You didn't find any racism then," he said. "Everybody was comrades."
After the many hardships he endured in the war, Washington said after he came back, he would just as soon burn a restaurant to the ground as let its proprietor turn him away because of his skin color.
"People who have racist tendencies should be forced to lay in the rice paddies and burn ticks off of their bodies," he said.
Washington's was one of dozens of war stories shared at Winnetka's annual Veterans Day ceremony Thursday, which has been held each year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, at the Winnetka Woman's Club.
Sitting next to Washington was World War II veteran Ed Lancioni, who was sent to reinforce the 29th Infantry Division three weeks after its soldiers stormed Omaha Beach during the Normandy landing. Lancioni served for the war's duration.
He earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. The Silver Star is the third-highest award a soldier can receive and is awarded for valor in the face of the enemy.
Lancioni made a rueful joke about how quickly he was promoted once the fighting began. By the time the the war ended, he was a platoon sergeant.
"It took me 11 months to become a (private first class) in the states," he said. "Three weeks after I got to the war, I became a sergeant. Two or three weeks later, I was a staff sergeant.
"It didn't take long because most of the guys got injured or killed," he said with a soft laugh. "I was one of the lucky ones."
The Veterans Day event is co-sponsored by New Trier VFW Post 4831, The Village of Winnetka, Winnetka Park District and the Winnetka Historical Society.
A standing-room-only crowd surprised and pleased Mary Southerland, the Woman's Club past president.
"Every year it gets bigger and bigger," she said. "It's really fabulous that there are so many young people here."
Boy Scout Troops 18 and 20 served as a color guard and sisters Lexy and Stephany Podromos sang the national anthem and played a video tribute they recorded earlier.
A veteran of the Iraq war, Capt. John Patrick Farley of the U.S. Marine Corps delivered a brief speech about how important support from back home is to veterans serving abroad.
"I think every veteran really appreciates being recognized," Iraq war veteran Carrie Hoza said. Both her uncle, Jeff, and father, Phil, served in Vietnam and she said they were not shown the same appreciation and thanks when they returned from duty.
"They wrote that same blank check to Uncle Sam," she said, referring to how they risked their lives.
Iraq war veteran Arlene Walsh said for her, Veteran's Day is not so much about personal recognition as it is about saying to those who served: "Thank you, we miss you and we're glad you're back."