TRUMBULL, Conn. — War is not a pretty thing, but it teaches valuable lessons, Brookfield Police Chief Robin Montgomery told the crowd at Trumbull’s Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday.
“It’s animalistic. It’s about survivor mentality,” Mongomery told fellow veterans and the senior class gathered at Trumbull High School. “You need to rely on others. Teamwork. We.”
On June 8, 1969, Montgomery, then a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, learned that lesson when he crawled across enemy lines in Vietnam and stood against an aggressive assault, singlehandedly taking out a machine gun position. Inspired by their badly wounded leader’s bravery, his platoon surged forward and prevailed in battle that day.
Before Montgomery gave his keynote speech Wednesday, former Trumbull First Selectman Raymond Baldwin, a fellow Marine, quoted the citation read to Montgomery when he won the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor in combat.
Montgomery, who also received two Purple Hearts during his three years in the Marines, “upheld the tradition of the Marines,” Baldwin said.
In a brief speech, Montgomery, who also served 26 years in the FBI and has been Brookfield’s police chief for 15 more, told students they need to learn to listen and communication and value humility and a positive attitude.
“If you’re humble, people tend to share things with you,” he said. “If you’ve got a positive attitude about something, you tend to succeed.”
He also encouraged all present to learn about their country’s past.
“The more you know about history, the better off you’ll be,” he said.
Several local veterans participated in a Q&A with students, who asked them why they enlisted and how they felt about leaving home and returning to family and friends.
“Back in those days, everyone went,” said George Areson, commander of American Legion Post 141. “I guess I kind of looked forward to it — until I got there.”
Asked the first thing they did upon coming home, Kayla Downey, who has served in Germany, Iraq, Texas and Korea in the Army, didn’t hesitate.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said with a smile. “The first thing I did was eat!”
The ceremony included songs by the Trumbull High School Chamber Singers, led by Anne Tomillo, and “Service Salute” by the Trumbull High School Band, directed by Peter Horton.
Areson ended the day in gratitude before heading to Town Hall Green for a wreath-laying ceremony. Several students lingered to shake Montgomery’s hand, including Sam Guttman and Neil Baunach who have enlisted in the Marine Corps.
“As you thank us for our service,” Areson said, “we thank you for remembering.”