Wakefield, Massachusetts Honors Veterans
“It is our obligation and responsibility to remember and honor those who have served in our armed forces,” Colonel John B. Encarnacao said at yesterday’s Veterans’ Day observance. “We literally owe them our lives and the freedom of our country.”
Wakefield’s Veterans’ Day ceremonies got underway at 11 a.m. in the Galvin Middle School auditorium with Commander David McCall of Corporal Harry E. Nelson American Legion Post 63 presiding. After the posting of the colors, Commander McCall led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Rev. Richard Weisenbach, Pastor of the First Parish Congregational Church, offered a prayer of invocation. The Wakefield High School Chorale followed, singing The National Anthem.
Betsy Sheeran, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said that she was proud to be the mother of a veteran.
“We owe more than we can ever repay to our veterans,” Sheeran said. “We should not abandon, nor should we ever lose our sense of obligation to those who have sacrificed so much for us.”
Rep. Katherine Clark noted that this year Veterans’ Day fell exactly one week after the national elections where America enjoyed a peaceful vote and a peaceful transition of power.
“We are all proud to be a country where democracy is strong,” Clark added. “This remarkable freedom that we enjoy comes at a cost, and that cost is borne by our veterans. They put their nation’s interest before their own, and they ask for little in return.”
Rep. Mark Falzone said that his role as vice chairman of the Veterans’ Committee in the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave him a unique perspective on the needs of veterans. He called for a renewed commitment to maintaining services needed by veterans and troops on active duty.
“The troops that fight for us here and abroad, and the veterans who did fight for us,” Falzone told the crowd, “we must not let them down. We must support them 100 percent.”
The day’s featured speaker, Colonel John B. Encarnacao (retired), is a veteran with 36 years of military service. The Wakefield native began his military career in 1959 when he enlisted in Company C, 101st Engineer Battalion, 26th (Yankee) Infantry Division in Lynn. He rose to the rank of Colonel in 1990.
Colonel Encarnacao retired as Chief of Staff of the Mass. Army National Guard, a position he held from 1993 to 1995. Upon his retirement, he was placed on the State’s Honorary Retired List as a Brigadier General. In 1993, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Military Academy Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
“I am proud to be a veteran and I am proud to be able to continue to wear this uniform as a retired member of the armed forces,” Encarnacao told the crowd at the Galvin Middle School Auditorium. He said that Veterans’ Day held special meaning for him, noting that five of his brothers also served in the armed forces. Encarnacao proudly added that his son Anthony and his daughter Kristina graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and both achieved the rank of captain, each serving five years on active duty.
“Throughout our history,” Colonel Encarnacao observed, “ordinary citizens have answered the call to duty and have valiantly defended the freedoms, rights and privileges that we so often take for granted.” Serving on the World War II Memorial Committee, Colonel Encarnacao said, has given him an even greater appreciation for the service of local veterans.
“I’m amazed that so many young men and women from South Reading and subsequently the town of Wakefield have served in each of the wars – from the Revolution to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Colonel Encarnacao said. He pointed out that since World War I, 5,472 men and women from Wakefield have served in wars and 177 made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. “Our town can be proud that so many of our fellow citizens are veterans who made sacrifices and contributed to safeguarding our freedoms,” Colonel Encarnacao added.
“In the 21st century we still need our service men and women to step forward,” Colonel Encarnacao said. “We pay tribute to all those who are prepared to undertake this vital role.”
In a particularly poignant and touching interlude in yesterdays ceremony, the Wakefield High School Wind Ensemble under the Direction of Thomas Bankert played “American Heroes: a Salute to the Armed Forces.” The piece is a medley of the theme songs of each branch of the armed services: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. As each theme was played, veterans of that branch of the service stood to the applause of those in attendance.
The Wakefield Choral Society, under the Direction of Ryan Murphy with accompanist Joe Beninati was once again a key element of the Veterans’ Day program, performing several selections.
[This story originally appeared in the November 12, 2008 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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