Legion to honor the heroes of our longest war
Sgt. Charlotte Marcy Mansur

Legion to honor the heroes of our longest war

Post 5 will present a day of events in remembrance of those who have served — and those who still serve — in the global war on terrorism

BRATTLEBORO — Forty service members with ties to Vermont have been killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dozens more have died after their service as a result of their injuries or after taking their own lives after coming home.

Local attorney Tom Costello, a Marine Corps combat veteran during the Vietnam War who is now the post commander of Brattleboro American Legion Post 5, said members wanted to do something to honor those who served and those who died in the conflict, which began with the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001 and continues to this day.

“Normally, you have commemorations after a war has ended,” Costello said. “But after 18 years, there is still no sign that this war will end, and the people who served and sacrificed deserve to be honored now.”

In her recent book These Truths: A History of the United States, historian Jill Lepore wrote that “the War on Terror differs from every earlier American war. It was led, from Washington, by men and women who had never served in the military, and it was fought, in the Middle East, by an all-volunteer force whose sacrifices American civilians did not share or know or even, finally, consider.”

While Vietnam was what Lepore called “a bad war, and a distant war” and that “its sacrifices had been unevenly borne,” those sacrifices had been shared somewhat.

But in this century, fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans saw duty in Iraq and Afghanistan during what became known as the global war on terror, or “GWOT,” in Pentagon-ese.

Those observations stuck with Costello.

“As a Vietnam veteran, I've been trying to understand what our current veterans are going through,” he said.

Symposiums, talks, and a dinner to honor vets

Post 5's “War on Terror” program on Saturday, Nov. 2 seeks to honor Vermont veterans who've fought since the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, as well as educate the public about the ongoing effort.

Similar to what Post 5 did to commemorate the veterans of the Civil War and of the Vietnam War, a day-long series of symposiums and talks is planned. It will be capped off with a formal dinner and commemoration service for GWOT veterans.

The event will start at 1 p.m. with Brattleboro Union High School history teacher Bill Holiday speaking at the American Legion at 32 Linden St.

After, local and state veterans will present seminars at three downtown locations. The seminars are free and open to all.

• The Legion will host U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Christopher Day speaking at 2:15 p.m. about his two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

• Vermont Air National Guard State Command Chief Master Sergeant Brian Marchessault will speak at 3:15 p.m. about the Vermont Guard's work to help push the Islamic State from the Iraqi city of Mosul.

• Brooks Memorial Library at 224 Main St. will host U.S. Department of Agriculture advisor Drew Adams, who will speak at 2:15 p.m. about his service in Afghanistan helping farmers rebuild their lives.

• Retired U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Christie Turner will speak at 3:15 p.m. on the topic “Coming Home with Post-Traumatic Stress Changed My Life.”

• The Brattleboro Savings & Loan at 221 Main St. will host Vermont Air National Guard intelligence officer Christopher Clements speaking at 2:15 p.m. on the subject “A Den of Thieves: The Competing Factions, Uneasy Alliances and Bitter Rivalries of the Syrian Civil War.”

• Retired U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Stephen Mark Truhan will speak at 3:15 p.m. on commissioned service.

• A 4 p.m. service at St. Michael Roman Catholic Church at 47 Walnut St. will be followed at 6 p.m. by an American Legion dinner featuring Marchessault talking about his Vermont Air National Guard work.

BUHS students Spenser Lawrence, Marley Hathaway, and Sam Kuusinen will honor three local service members: Vermont Army National Guard Lt. Mark Dooley of Wilmington, Army PFC Kyle Gilbert of Guilford, and Army National Guard Sgt. Charlotte Marcy Mansur.

“Each student was assigned to research the lives of the three veterans we're honoring,” said Costello, “and then make their presentation at the dinner.”

All three served in Iraq. Dooley and Gilbert were killed in action, while Mansur - a military police officer gravely wounded by a roadside bomb in 2006 - ultimately took her own life in 2016.

Costello said each family will be presented with a U.S. flag that had previously flown over U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

All GWOT veterans and their families will be invited to the banquet in the evening and will be honored. The dinner is free to veterans and $15 for the public, with reservations and more information available by calling the Legion at 802-257-1872.

'To fear and loathe war because of knowing war'

Costello hopes the day of seminars and commemoration will “help express the viewpoints of veterans and honor those who served,” which he believes is important at a time when so few Americans - particularly those in political power - have any experience with the military.

He brought up something that President Dwight Eisenhower once said: “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn't know the military as well as I do.”

The last U.S. president to have served in the military was George H.W. Bush, a Navy pilot in World War II. None of his successors have had what Lepore described as lacking the knowledge “to fear and loathe war because of knowing war.”

Costello said he was heartened by the number of GWOT veterans who have run for public office in recent years, including 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Joe Sestak, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, and former candidate Seth Moulton.

“We need more people who are willing to be a voice for veterans and their families,” Costello said.

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