By MIRANDA BAINES
The Daily Southerner
“What is a veteran?”
In this case it’s the 92-year-old man sitting in the crowd, straining to hear the words of the speaker because his work on airplanes during World War II left him hard of hearing. His name is Truman Spain, and, like many others, he listened to the words of a tribute to veterans read by Marcia Cherry on the Town Common in Tarboro Monday morning. The occasion of the remarks was the local observance of Veterans Day.
“So remember, next time you see someone who has served your country, just lean over and say, ‘Thank you,’” Cherry, patriotism chair of the Pilot Club of Tarboro, told the audience.
Like many veterans, Spain does not expect a lot of praise for his service, just a simple acknowledgement.
“They just want a little pat on the back,” he said.
Spain enlisted in the Army Air Corps after hearing the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served four years, until the end of the war.
“I told them, ‘When I go out with you to work, I’ll help you, but I want you to know that when this is over, I’m going home to my family. That [war] is hard on family,” Spain said.
Spain’s daughter, Melodie Menke, is a U.S. Navy veteran.
“We’ve both worn the cloth of the nation, so that’s something we share as a family — the understanding that freedom is not free,” Menke said. Her husband, James, retired last year after a 30-year career as a hospital corpsman in the Navy.
A lifetime member of American Legion Post No. 428, Spain led veterans’ ceremonies as the commander of his post in his native Illinois, and appreciated Monday’s ceremony.
“It was wonderful. I think they did a wonderful job,” he said.
Another veteran, Alfred Iappini, expressed his gratitude for Monday’s tribute.
“It was really moving to see all these people who came out here,” said Iappini, who served in the Air Force during Vietnam.
“It was just magnificent, very poignant,” Iappini’s wife, Ann, said, in reference to the subject matter of Monday’s service and the picturesque setting. Like the autumn leaves swirling through the air on the Town Common, veterans are all around us.
“Just respect them. You’ve got a lot of them that are down and out and people just walk right by them,” Iappini said.
Iappini and his wife, Ann, are from Boston. They were on a visit to their godson, John Vaudo, vice-commander of Eason Tiney American Legion Post 19 in Tarboro. During the presentation of service flags by the Air Force JROTC from Tarboro High School, Vaudo shared the motto and history of each military branch as the song of each branch was played and its raised. Vaudo asked veterans who were able to stand as their branch’s song was played.
While the songs were playing, 9-year-old Hannah Clark joyfully waved her hand-held American flag, bfter the ceremony was over she was crying. When asked why, she replied, “Because someone died.”
“I don’t know how you ever say, ‘Thank you’ to the people who served. That’s an amazing sacrifice,” said Spain’s daughter. Anne Tellier. “I really appreciate everything our veterans have done to keep our country free.”
The ceremonies at the Veterans Memorial were one of three held in the community on Monday, including an early morning gathering at the flagpole at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital and a late morning observance at Edgecombe Community College.
“Some gave all, but all gave some,” said George Young at the Vidant flagpole earlier in the day, An Army veteran, Young is assistant director for American Legion Riders Post 19 North Carolina,