Retired Army Sgt. Paul Kelly remembers July 12, 1969, as if it was yesterday.
It was the day his captain, Ralph Bray, died during the Vietnam War.
“I had several captains but he stands out because he was only with us for one month and then he was killed. Captain Bray turned 27 years old on June 12 and he died one month later on July 12,” said Kelly, of Huntington Station. “I stay in contact with his son Rob through email.”
As the guest speaker at the 24th annual Veteran’s Wreath Ceremony, Kelly said he was privileged yet sad to speak about his fellow fallen soldiers.
“I am one of the lucky ones to live and tell the stories. You could be a foot away from someone being killed. It’s an honor for me to give a speech honoring the veterans. Veterans Day is important to remember the veterans who were killed and the ones who are living,” he said.
The ceremony honored those who served and were killed during the wars in Vietnam and Korean, and in World War I and II. The event was on the front lawn of Veterans Plaza in Huntington was hosted by the Huntington Veterans’ Advisory Board and Huntington Town Board.
“I spent 19 months in Korea; it was the coldest place,” said Korean War veteran Ed Billia of Huntington Station. “I made friends there. I lost friends there. We must always remember, honor and support our veterans.”
The ceremony included the color guards, presentation of the wreath, a rifle salute and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Matt Paskett, 26, of East Northport said he was grateful to be in the presence of the hundreds of veterans. Paskett has served in the Army as a combat engineer specialist in Iraq from 2003 to 2006 and in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011.
“I lost two friends in Afghanistan. To be here is honoring those who served and I am extremely proud to be here,” he said.