Portsmouth salutes 'Greatest Generation' veterans

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PORTSMOUTH — Arthur C. Lenaghan, an Army chaplain from the Fall River Diocese who served in World War II, didn't die in vain.

Father Lenaghan was killed in action on Jan. 7, 1944 — 11 days before his 37th birthday —  as he carried wounded American soldiers to safety on the battlefields of Italy’s Liri Valley.

The Purple Heart recipient was remembered Monday morning by his second cousin, Carolyn Evans-Carbery, who told an overflow crowd at Town Hall that the Army chaplain's actions typified the selflessness and courage of all veterans who served their country.

"You went into the military as young men," Ms. Evans-Carbery said, addressing the veterans in front of her, "and you didn't know what was in store for you."

While Monday's Veterans Day ceremony paid tribute to all men and women who served their country at wartime, it paid special tribute to the "Greatest Generation" of soldiers who fought in World War II and the Korean War. The American Legion Post 18 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5390 and their auxiliaries hosted the ceremony and invited all local veterans from those two wars to attend.

Ms. Evans-Carbery found 111 veterans, several of whom turned out Monday to receive a medal and proclamation in person from Town Council President James Seveney. The council, he noted, proclaimed Nov. 11-17 as "Greatest Generation Week" in Portsmouth.

"Oh God, thank you for the selfless sacrifice of our veterans and their families," said Ken Williams, chaplain of American Legion Post 18, in his invocation.

Christine Hayward, adjutant/past commander of American Legion Post 18, talked about the home front during war, pointing out that families of men who went away to fight also made sacrifices. During World War II, she said, "marriages were delayed or rushed" and plans for college put on hold. Moms joined the workforce while teenage family members took care of the younger kids.

"There were shortages of everything" and many items were re-purposed, said Ms. Hayward, who made the ceremony's special wreath out of old dungarees and a man's shirt.

While the Korean conflict is often referred to as "the forgotten war," its veterans will always be remembered, said Ms. Hayward.

Ms. Evans-Carbery, dressed as the cultural American icon "Rosie the Riveter," talked about all the women who took jobs in factories and elsewhere after the men left home to serve in World War II.

"It's not really about one person named Rosie but the millions of women" asked to join the workforce to replace the men who were called to service, she said.

Professor John Mangold, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and commander of American Legion Post 18, said veterans of World War II and the Korean War were products of a different time.

"This generation grew up in the Great Depression. They knew great sacrifice and when they were called to duty, they didn't hesitate," he said. "They served in the cause of freedom for all mankind and for them that was enough. We owe them a debt we can never repay."

Assisted by members of Cub Scout Pack 50, who also posted the colors, Mr. Seveney presented the veterans in attendance with a proclamation and medal, and thanked each of them for their service.

One of the veterans was Mr. Seveney's uncle, Harrison Seveney, 93. The council president said he was proud to honor his uncle, who battled the Germans while serving under George S. Patton, Jr., the famous Army general.

"He was in World War II, with Patton's Third Army — the Battle of the Bulge and all that. He was a combat engineer," Mr. Seveney said of Harrison Seveney, the oldest from a family of eight.

Carlton Johnson, senior vice commander of VFW Post 5390, introduced the speakers and the Portsmouth High School Vocal Ensemble, directed by Gael Berberick, performed the national anthem. Bugler Don Chilton ended the ceremony by playing "Taps" outside Town Hall.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.