By Kevin S. Hill
The following speech was made at the Revere Veterans Day Ceremony before the members of the Revere High School Reserve Officer Training Corps held at Revere High School on November 10, 2015.
“Cadet DoSantos – Thank you, On behalf of my family, I want to thank Maj. Bowker, Sgt. Major Callendar, and all of you for giving me your time to speak today
To those of you who volunteer in the Patriot Battalion, I want to thank you for the services you provide regularly to this city at functions like this. I am proud to be in your company today.
There’s power to a room this size – filled with a group of more than 1,000. The “group” itself might mask that there are 1,000 unique stories here. When I was younger and attended Veteran’s day ceremonies, I sometimes slipped into thinking about the larger context of the U.S. Military or the group of Veterans and what they accomplished.
But the creation of Veterans Day was intended to focus attention on individuals – young men and women who make a choice to sacrifice their time and energy, and unfortunately sometimes their lives.
That in my opinion is the most powerful impact we can have in recognizing Veterans day – to reflect on those individuals who made that choice. Many of whom walked through these halls and other schools around Revere and left to serve. (Some of them are here today.)
To those of you, who have brothers and sisters or other relatives away or in harms way, we pray for them and try remember them every day beyond Veterans day.
To those of you specifically whose parents serve in the military, I think of you a lot – because I understand the young, quiet sacrifice you make – maybe it’s not given freely, but it is a sacrifice borne by you, at an already difficult time in your life– and you should feel proud of yourselves.
A week ago the City of Revere formally dedicated the Hill school to my uncle Jim – A man I had never met, because he died during WWII, but about whom I know a lot because my father respected the decision made at a young age, and frankly he missed him.
And while my uncle served in the US Army, it was during a time where there were no TV’s, no computers, and a great distance between the action and news reporting. And for that reason I think he and my other uncles thought more about Revere as the community they left to defend.
For my own family, I should provide some context of that time 72 years ago.
Like so many families of that era, My Grandfather/Grandmother had 10 children. They raised them on Taft Street and then on Beach Street – in houses that still stand today.
In 1943-44 the three oldest boys – left this city just weeks after graduating high school to fight the war: 2 went to Europe / 1 went to the Pacific
The two who went to Europe served differently
My uncle Bert went into the Air Corps as it was known in those days – was a waste gunner on a B24 bomber, firing guns from just behind the wing to protect the plane as it moved toward its bombing target. In 1944, he was killed attempting to destroy an airplane factory in Central Germany
My uncle Jim, for whom the school is named, was a Medic and a member of Gen. Patton’s infantry, and fought on the ground working his way through France, Germany and Austria. He loved baseball, and prior to leaving for the war, he set a high school record for nine stolen bases in a single game. It was among the reasons Hill Park was named in his honor. His nickname as a boy was “Hoodsie Hill” because he would sit on a curb and eat hoodsies by the dozen.
My Uncle Tom, the youngest of the three was a radio operator in the Pacific, assigned to a crash boat whose job was to pick up fighters shot down in the Pacific. He later served during the Occupation of Japan.
Only one of the brothers returned, My Uncles Bert and Jim died, My father remembered a day while he, his parents and the other younger kids were returning from Sunday Mass – and upon seeing the Army vehicle in the driveway and a Chaplain and Officer waiting on the front porch – It told the story before they opened their mouths.
Tommy returned in to Revere 1946 – after his two older brothers had been buried.
The family has loved Revere as a community and believed their brothers were fighting as much for what that community represented as for what the US represented at that time. The remaining brothers/sisters built their lives in Revere. On behalf of my Aunt Grace, the surviving member of that expansive family, I want to thank the folks who helped remember that sacrifice with the naming of the S/Sgt James J. Hill School. 72 years is a long time to ask a community to remember, and for those of you involved in that discussion, the removal of Hill Park to make way for the school was a concern to that one remaining brother, Tom Hill.
Hill Park during its heyday, to my Uncle Tom signified a Community that came together regularly – a community he loved and feared would take a step toward forgetting that history.
But in contrast, the reality is that the Hill school is an incredibly vibrant place, with a fantastic staff of teachers and administrators – all working to build the next generation of strength for Revere.
The children in that Hill school will someday come to this building and recognize the achievements of your class.
There is absolutely no more fitting remembrance to that teenager who left his town to represent his community – than a center of the community designed to build and strengthen it.
Many things have changed since WWII, but what I find most striking is what has NOT changed: The fact that young men and women continue to leave here, sacrifice their time, and put themselves in harm’s way — to serve.
Your generation is among the most informed in history – informed of world perspective, the differing opinions across the globe, and conscious of global conflicts, and yet your participation in service to your community and your country remains consistent and powerful.
As I close, I would ask that as you walk up Park Ave by the Hill School or look upon it from playing or watching a game at Harry DellaRusso stadium. Please remember that 18 year old boy who boarded a bus in 1943, and left a town he loved, and I hope that triggers remembrance of the thousands of veterans who did the same thing and returned to live and build lives in this City.
That sacrifice to service by past generations, and perpetuated by your generation is really an act of one person to effect change in another person’s life. I am reminded of a quote by one of my teachers who believed in the incredible power of one person, and I think it is representative of the perspective of Veterans and their families.
I am only one
But I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do SOMETHING
That something – won’t be everything
But it’s far better that I do something
Thank had I done nothing at all.
Thanks for giving me your time today and…for
– remembering to celebrate Veterans today and tomorrow.