The Simple Gesture has Deepened my PatriotismPosted: February 11, 2018
Silver Lake, (Harrison), New York, a small town located just 20 miles north of Manhattan holds much American history. The Battle of White Plains during the American Revolution was fought there. This small hamlet was a stopping ground for the Underground Railroad, and in a small secluded area there is a well-kept cemetery for those who fought in our nation’s Civil War.
WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran’s names are proudly displayed on the Honor Rolls in town. Patriotism runs deep; our families give rise to the Ninth Fold and proudly we give up our children to serve.
Just as our forefathers did on this sacred piece of American history, each generation, in their way, feels the desire to ensure the rights and responsibilities of its citizens. Some become police officers, social workers, firefighters, doctors, librarians, authors, uniformed military personnel– all called to serve.
On May 23, 2015 a young man, from zipcode 10604 graduated West Point. His name: Stephen F. Ricciardi.
Stephen’s childhood was filled with the joys of small town living. He played sports, went to summer camp, breathed fresh air and knew the love and camaraderie of family and kin. In his early years, Stephen learned to run to keep up with his two older sisters. Beautiful and bright as both are, he rose to their sparkle.
High school was successful. He graduated his way into West Point. Another townsman called to serve. Stephen Frederic Ricciardi was chosen to attend West Point. His mother proudly shared videos and photos of Stephen’s journey there. As a community, we rejoiced.
Stephen graduated, and as a community, we watched. Some in person; some in front of their TV sets thousands of miles away. We cheered. Stephen traveled home after his graduation to see a football game at his old alma mater, Harrison High School. I remember the day clearly.
I was sitting on the 35-yard line. From a short distance, I heard a familiar voice call my name. Turning my face toward Jackie, I immediately noticed her son by her side. (Stephen stands six feet tall.) Easy to spot in a crowd, I head toward the pair. Stephen kissed my cheek and his mom says “You have to try on his ring.”
With awe showing on my face, I shook my head – no. My mind raced with thoughts of how could I possibly, even for a moment, wear a ring so honored. Stephen’s West Point ring was earned through dedication to academic and athletic challenges. That ring symbolizes honor, courage and commitment to my beloved America.
Stephen’s charismatic smile wide on his face as he reassured me. “It’s okay, please try it on.” I placed the ring on my thumb and in that very instant I was transported – literally transported in my mind, perhaps in my soul – to memories that were not my own.
I felt myself standing on the Hudson River looking up at West Point. In a flash, I was on a battleground– then another. I felt courage and humility. The flash of “time traveling” met its quick end as I pulled the West Point ring off and placed it in my palm. I’d been overwhelmed by the emotions that ring carried.
Sharing what I am sure I both saw and experienced, mom and son both grinned. Stephen placed his ring back on his hand and proceeded to tell me the story of how new graduate rings are forged with the metals of past graduates. Rings dating back to 1868, and as present as Afghanistan, rings of Purple Heart recipients, rings from 322 past graduates are forged into the rings of newly commissioned officers.
The simple gesture of allowing me to try on his ring has deepened my Patriotism. I am forever grateful.