Fallen Comrades

Posted September 20th, 2012 by Albert DeCiccio Ph.D., Provost, Southern Vermont College

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  We all know that these are the words of Sir Winston Churchill, extolling the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain for delivering to Hitler’s Germany the first military defeat of World War II. I know this because my father-in-law, Flight Lieutenant Paddy McGrath, was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain.  He therefore belonged to the British Officers Club of New England (BOCNE).  As his son-in-law, I was given honorary membership in BOCNE and have, for the past 18 years, celebrated Battle of Britain Day (15 September) in Boston with Paddy and his mates.  This May, Paddy died, as have so many of those RAF members from the second world war.  At the end of the evening that recalls the Battle of Britain, members toast the Queen, the President, and fallen comrades.  This year–last Friday, in fact–we toasted Paddy in that latter category.

In that spirit, last weekend my wife and I visited her parents’ grave site as well as my parents’ grave site, putting a solar lamp near each headstone–a kind of night light for them all.  On the way to my parents’ grave site in Methuen, MA, we pass through Dracut, MA, and by the farm of Captain John Ogonowski, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 which was hi-jacked and flown into the North Tower of the WTC in NYC.  Ogonowski was an avid agriculturalist and his farm is still kept by his family.  In fact, we purchased the pumpkin displayed at our home in North Bennington from this farm.

I have attached Captain Ogonowski’s memorial headstone so that, in this month of September when there have been so many poignant occurrences, we will remember our fallen comrades.

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