|Berkshire County Reflects On Memorial Day|
|Staff Reports, |
04:45PM / Monday, May 27, 2019
|Numerous veterans attended the ceremony at Pittsfield Cemetery.|
North Adams' ceremony featured the reading of the Gettysburg Address and the presentation of the George O. Angeli Award. More photos can be found here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.
The city observed Memorial Day with the traditional parade from American Legion Post 125 to the Veterans Memorial with police and fire vehicles, veterans organizations, Boy and Girl Scouts and the Drury High School marching band.
Master of ceremonies was Senior Vice Cmdr. Mitchell Keil of Post 125; parade marshals and non-speaking dignitaries included Joseph Zustra Jr, VFW; Dennis St. Pierre, American Legion; Edward Denault, VVA; Louis Floriani, AMVETS; Matthew Spencer, VFW Auxiliary president; and Legion Auxiliary 125 President Gail Nelson. The Rev. David Anderson of First Baptist Church gave the opening and closing prayers.
The Gettysburg Address was given by Carly Pontier, this year's recipient of the George O. Angeli Award. The award was presented during the ceremony by Police Officer Preston Kelly on behalf of the police association.
Angeli was a World War II veteran and a North Adams police officer who was struck and killed in 1960 by a drunken driver while investigating an accident on Curran Highway. He was 34 years old and left a wife and two children.
"We make it a point to recognize a young woman who has shown the qualities and characteristics exemplified by the spirit of Patrolman Angeli," Kelly said in presenting the plaque to Pontier.
Mayor Thomas Bernard thanked those who marched in and attended the parade and the volunteers who in the last week have placed flags at veterans graves across the city.
"As we mark Veterans Day here at the memorial park, hundreds of flags fly across our cemeteries in a testament to their service and sacrifice and to the commitment of the volunteers who commemorate their memories," he said. In quoting from Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech from "Henry V," he noted it celebrated war and service as pathways to honor and glory.
"But we also know there's a deeper truth of lost lives, fallen friends, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands, daughters and sons left with memories of loved ones lost too soon," the mayor said, as well as the sacrifices by service personnel who were denied their basic rights or had their service disparaged. "When we count the cost on this day of remembrance, we must remember their sacrifices as well."
The mayor also recalled two of the city's fallen: Army Sgt. Peter W. Foote III who died in Vietnam in 1968 and Army Spc. Michael DeMarsico II, who lost his life in service in Afghanistan in 2012.
"I also want to end my remarks this morning by speaking of those who will pick up the torch of freedom from those who came before us and will keep it burning brightly into the future," Bernard said. "One such person is with us this morning, Drury senior Evan O'Dell, who is playing the tuba with the band. Evan graduates next week and plans to join the United States Marine Corps. Evan, I know you will make us all proud."
Guest speaker Stephen Roy, the city's veterans service officer, also reminded the gathering that Memorial Day wasn't just a day for sales and barbecues. The McCann Technical School graduate and former Air Force member said he wasn't much of a public speaker and kept his remarks brief.
"I'm sure I don't need to remind us all the sad fact is that today is not meant to be a happy day," he said. "Today is a memorial day. And the root of the word memorial is memory. And by that virtue remembrance. Today is a day set aside not to embark upon the summer sales events, the season's first camp out, cookout or three-day getaway. Now, today's a day set aside to remember those who perished in the line of duty."
He quoted from a Confederate, Theodore O'Hara, whose poem "Bivouac of the Dead" from his time serving the U.S. Army is on the McClellan Gate at Arlington National Cemetery:
"No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps."
Clarksburg held its observances a day earlier than usual at Town Hall. Sunday morning's speakers included Selectmen Chairman Ronald Boucher, Joseph Bushika of Peter A. Cook Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9144, and guest retired Army Sgt. Maj. Mary Angelo-Roberts of Williamstown.
Roberts, a decorated veteran with a distinguished career that included numerous overseas postings, acknowledged that holiday had become the official start of summer and the occasion for barbecues and beaches.
"These do speak to the holiday's true spirit," she said, but above all, it is a time to pause and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Clarksburg switched its annual ceremony from Monday to Sunday. More photos from the ceremony can be found here.
"The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities," Roberts said. "They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity. All the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself.
"Many of them didn't ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields, many didn't even volunteer. They didn't go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people from our communities who responded in extraordinary ways."
Laurie Boudreau and Lynette Farnsworth sang the national anthem and "America, the Beautiful" and the Drury High School band several patriotic tunes. Students from Clarksburg School also performed.
Lily Meehan and Mia Parise read the Gettysburg Address and members of the Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Company stood as honor guard and gave the 21-gun salute.
Bushika read the names of those from Clarksburg who died in war and Boucher made a special note of residents more recently lost: former VFW post commander Raymond Vachereau who died Sept. 7, 2018, and firefighter Robert Goodell, who had died Sept. 10. Both are listed in memory in the town's annual report.
"More than 1.1 million men and women have died in wartime throughout the span of our nation's history," he said. "To put that perspective, that's more than the populations of San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C."
Nearly 3 million are missing, more than the population of Chicago.
"These numbers should truly humble us, as they represent people, individuals, our brothers, husbands, mothers, sisters, friends, these were people woven into the fabric of communities across the nation. They were loved. They were mourned and they were missed," Boucher said.
Both he and Roberts said that while it was right to remember the dead it was important not to forget the living.
"There are many ways you can keep our fallen, as well as our injured and ill veterans in your mind and in your heart throughout the year," Boucher said. "It could be driving a veteran to a medical appointment, befriending a veteran who lives alone or is in a nursing facility. Please reach out to find ways you can help engage and be part of the effort to care for those who serve. ...
"You can ensure that the sacrifices made by our nation's finest and bravest never go unappreciated and that their memories are never forgotten."
Representatives from each war tossed poppies to recognize a local veteran who died. More photos from the parade and ceremony can be found here.
people of all ages stood on North Street or Wahconah Street to watch the parade and then joined in a ceremony at the Pittsfield Cemetery.
Keynote speaker John Harding looked at the large gathering and expressed thanks for everybody who joined on the sunny morning in remembering the veterans who lost their lives.
"We have something in America that most countries don't have. No doubt we have some severe problems to work out but because of our veterans and those that support us — meaning you — we shall prevail," Harding said.
Harding served in Vietnam in the Marine Corp. He said one lesson that war had taught him was that the worst feeling someone can lose is their dignity. But with such a crowd of supporters, Harding said the community is helping to restore that.
He reflected on the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, saying the former is for all veterans who have served but the latter for is those who died.
"We should honor all veterans that were killed in action — KIA — and the ones that came home with life-threatening wounds and passed on, POWs, ones that were in prison, and missing — MIA — in actions. They have to be in our hearts today. Some have never been found and we pray for them. This is what Memorial Day is," Harding said.
He added that many suffered from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic street disorder, and many others ultimately committed suicide. He said the crowd to keep those in mind this Memorial Day as well.
"These are the most profound parts of war and should be acknowledged on Memorial Day," he said.
Veterans groups had placed some 8,700 flags on the gravestones of veterans in Pittsfield Cemetery and St. Joseph Cemetery. At the ceremony, Rabbi Liz Hirsch provided the invocation; Fran Tremblay was the emcee; Tony Pastore sang the national anthem; Vietnam Veteran Craig Gaetani read the General John A. Logan's Memorial Day Order; Veterans Services Director John Herrera read the names of veterans who died while representatives from the various wars threw poppies in memoriam; there were Taps and a volley; the Pittsfield High School Band played patriotic songs; and Rev. Christopher Fedoryshyn provided the benediction.
Mayor Linda Tyer read a proclamation recognizing one veteran particularly: Charles Whittlesey. The Pittsfield native earned a medal of honor when he spent five days, short on supplies, fighting the enemy on his own.
"By maintaining his position, Maj. Whittlesey helped save 194 of his men," Tyer said.
Tyer also recognized the support shown by the community at the ceremony.
"We have our oldest generation of veterans, we have cub scouts and boy scouts. We have our musicians from our two high schools. We've all come together today to give thanks and honor those we have lost," Tyer said.
Monday morning's Memorial Day ceremony in Williamstown was a chance to reflect back on the lives of those who have served our country and forward into the future for the local American Legion Post.
"I'd like to thank everyone who came out for today's service, and we hope we see you here next year," said Tom Webb, post commander of Richard A. Ruether Post 152. "2020 will be the hundredth anniversary of the Williamstown American Legion post. ... Once again, I would like to mention that our doors are always open to new members, and we encourage that your recommend anyone you know who's a current or past service member to call us and find out more about our activities at Post 152.
"Our newest recruit is actually 23 years old, so we are getting some younger ones."
Although the bulk of Monday's service was devoted to fallen heroes, Post 152 maintained its tradition of recognizing area residents currently serving in our armed forces.
The post presented a blue star service banner to MaryEllen Meehan and James Byrne in honor of U.S. Army Spec. Colin Byrne, who currently is stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Army National Guard Maj. Adam Filson, who served as master of ceremonies on Monday, explained the history of the blue star banners, which date back to World War I and serve as a visible reminder that a member of a household currently is serving his or her country.
"Each blue star on the service banner represents one family member currently serving," Filson said. "As Americans provide their support to our troops during the current armed conflicts, the blue star service banner tradition reminds us all that war touches every neighborhood in our land.
"If you see a blue star displayed in a family's home window, you'll know why. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts throughout the year."
Monday's festivities began with a parade up Main Street (Route 2) from Park Street to the Field Park rotary. The route was shortened this year from its traditional start at the bottom of Spring Street due to construction there.
After the bands, veterans, scouts and other units made their way to the park, the formal ceremonies began.
Post 152 Chaplain Kevin Hamel delivered the invocation, and Filson read the role of recently departed veterans, a list of 24 men who served in conflicts ranging from World War II to Vietnam and the Cold War.
Three deceased veterans were singled out for special honors.
Williamstown not only recognized the fallen but also those currently serving. More photos can be found here.
After the annual flag-folding ceremony, Filson called out the families of Bruce J. Martel, a graduate of Williamstown High School, veteran of Vietnam and former selectman in Pownal, Vt.; Franklin D. Axt, a Bronze Star recipient for his service in Vietnam and a former employee at Goodyear in North Adams and the R.J. Halpin Trucking Co.; and Gerald E. Dickinson, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge was killed in action at the Battle for the Ruhr in World War II.
Hamel reminded all in attendance that Memorial Day is much more than a day off from work and asked all to view the more than 1,400 flags that adorn the gravesites of local service members.
And Hamel thanked the fallen heroes' family members, living and dead.
"We stand amidst patriots, family and friends of those who have nobly served," he said. "People are gathering across America today to pay tribute. It is a way to say we remember the prisoners of war, those missing in action, who are still unaccounted for, the soldiers who have shivered and starved through the winters of Valley Forge, and those who died on the bloody fields of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the doughboys who crowded into the muddy trenches of France, the troops who served in [World War II's] European theater or the Pacific campaign, those who endured the bitter cold of Chosin Reservoir in Korea, to the platoons who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam, to the fallen of Desert Storm and those who fought in the streets of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, to the present day war on terror.
"We will always remember."
After a parade through downtown Adams, led by the Hoosac Valley High School marching band, a ceremony was held at the Maple Street Cemetery.
"Today we remember the nations honored dead. Freedom is not free," master of ceremonies Paul Hutchinson said. "We know that and each generation must answer freedom's call. As veteran groups say: all gave some but some gave all."
After music from the Berkshire Highlanders, the Hoosac Valley band and Hanna Koczela and Tom Brown, keynote speaker Maj. Stanley Gajda III said a few words.
"As a young boy I stood in the same place, walked in the same parade, placed flags, listened to the speakers the sound of taps being played," he said. "I vividly recall the effect it had on me as I saw many uniformed veterans and families and the look in people's eyes as they listened and paused and swept away a tear and remembered their loved ones."
Gajda said he too has lost friends and family who have served and noted Memorial Day is not only a national day of honor but a personal day of remembrance.
"What makes today so integral is that this is a day placed on all of you the people, a town, a community that remembers all that have lost their lives," he said. "It is not just a convenient three day weekend ... one never knows when the last war will be fought and we will never forget those who died for us."
Gajda went on to say people refer to professional athletes as heroes and sporting events as battles. He said true heroes should not be reduced to this cliche. Gajda asked each attendee after the ceremony to make it a point on their own to remember and honor a fallen veteran.
"I ask each of you after this ceremony to take a moment here, at Bellevue or wherever else to take a moment of your time and honor our fallen veterans," he said. "My challenge is to extend yourselves beyond this ceremony in whatever way. You can share your thanks personally or even through a toast at your next gathering for a family member or a friend who is no longer with us."
Before closing Hutchinson noted that this is the Adams American Legion Post 160's 100th anniversary.
"Here in Adams the Legion had their first meeting 100 years ago ... so the float committee did a heck of a job," he said.
Children were invited to ride their bikes at the Cheshire ceremony. More photos from the parade and ceremony can be found here.
After a parade for which children were encouraged to ride their decorated bikes, a ceremony was held at the Cheshire
Cemetery off West Mountain Road.
Before opening the ceremony with a prayer, the Rev. William Furey reflected on his own time in the service during the Vietnam War. He said after a battle he spoke with one of his injured comrades.
"We loaded him into a medevac, I don't know if he made it I doubt that he did, and he said to me I don't want my family to forget me," he said. "I assured him that they wouldn't and I say this afternoon because it is good that you are here because we have not forgotten and we remember."
Selectman Robert Ciskowski was next to speak and reflected on how beautiful the town really was and noted some particular awe-inspiring landscapes. He then reflected on how many of the town's veterans connected with the town and its beauty and how brave they were to leave it.
"The people that left and served in the military that never came back you wonder what their favorite site was in Cheshire," he said. "What their favorite view was, what was the last thing they saw in Cheshire as they left for the last time. I guess we can't know these things because they are lost to the fog of history ... we will never forget the sacrifices made."
Student Mia Francesconi read the Gettysburg Address.
held its annual observances on Sunday afternoon, see photos
Staff writers Tammy Daniels, Stephen Dravis, Jack Guerino and Andy McKeever contributed to this report.