(Editor's note: The author delivered this as a speech on Veterans Day in Lake Placid.)
Many years ago, there was a revolutionary war here. Almost a century ago now, there was a revolution where my dad (Alexander Vitvitsky) lived. When he was 11 years old, they saw the Russian Red Army sweeping across the land, coming to enslave the people. Dad's parents suddenly said to the three boys, "Leave now! Go west so that you can live in a free country."
They traveled about 800 miles, mainly on foot, to Turkey. A few years later, a Red Cross worker arranged for our dad to go to the USA, sailing past the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island just beyond. One year later, he was proud to be sworn in as a new citizen of the USA.
Nine years later, Dad chose not to come to Lake Placid to compete in the Olympics. We appreciate the fact he did not give up his job during the Great Depression to compete here. He did come back to figure skate a year or two later - and to fall in love with these mountains.
A few more years and he was captured by the love of Helen Rider, and they married - FOUR DAYS before Pearl Harbor day! Soon they were going to war, Dad in the Army Air Force, where he hoped to further his plane-piloting skills. We are SO thankful the military instead chose to have him practice his chef and baking skills. He served food to an army, and we loved his culinary delights, though just a family of four!
Our future mother was a contract dietician at the two Air Force bases on Trinidad island down in the Caribbean, just off Venezuela. This was a stopover for soldiers such as Phil McKinney, headed for north Africa. (His funeral is today, Veterans Day, also.)
A few years after the war was over, Dad brought his young family to live in Lake Placid.
We were thus able to live in a community with such notable people as the St. Louis and Edgley families (the two other veterans with flags flowing here), the Harts, the Marvins - including Lady Barbara Dow - the Lawrences, the Sheas and many more people gathered here today.
And yes, we enjoyed being part of marching bands on the streets of Lake Placid.
Dad was as thrilled as anyone could be when his little girl was crowned Lake Placid Queen of Winter. A few years after that, he and Mom sent her to college high in the Swiss Alps. She soon captivated a Swiss soldier - who is also a machinist and farmer. She brought Hans VonAllmen back to Lake Placid and married him in the church closest to where we stand today - 43 YEARS AGO!
Dad often spoke of growing up near the Ural Mountains of Russia and his love of the Adirondack Mountains. His love of mountains and wanderlust continues with his family now. Several months every year now, Sandy and Hans pedal their bikes up the high mountains of the globe - including the Rockies, Alps, Laurentians of Canada and recently the Pyrenees in France, Portugal, Spain and Andorra.
Dad's frequent remembrances of his proud service during the World War II inspired ME to serve in the Army National Guard for a quarter-century, followed by several years of civilian contract work providing medical care to soldiers, civilians and, yes, native peoples across the U.S., into Canada, Guatemala, Iceland and Germany.
We thank you for so honoring our dad with this flag flowing in the heavenly breezes above Lake Placid as well as the mountains beyond.
Daddy, we love you and thank you for your service in preserving the greatest and freest nation EVER on the planet. Yes, we thank you.
Jack Vitvitsky lives in Lake Placid.