Local Observances Honor War Dead

26May09

Hundreds of local residents attend ceremonies in Wakefield, Massachusetts
Chief Master Sgt. Alfred Wilkes, USAF
“I get to stand here today because of those who served before me,” Chief Master Sgt. Alfred Wilkes of the U.S. Air Force told the crowd assembled yesterday in front of the World War II Memorial, “and I’m damn proud of them.”

“Gathering here today is one way to show our appreciation and gratitude,” Wilkes told the hundreds of local residents who turned out to honor our nation’s war dead on a warm and sunny Memorial Day in Wakefield.

Wilkes delivered the keynote address at yesterday afternoon’s observance on the Upper Common sponsored by local American Legion Post 63.

Soldier salutes flag
Wilkes reminded those in attendance that the U.S. military is not only the world’s greatest power. “We are also one of the world’s greatest instruments of peace and humanitarian assistance,” Wilkes said. “We serve today in Iraq and Afghanistan. We defend our country’s land, sea and airways, and we provide food, medicine and comfort when national disasters strike.”

“Memorial Day is a single day when we honor the spirit of all those who died in service of our nation,” Wilkes said. “We mark this special day by celebrating their legacy while grieving their absence in our lives.”

Chairman John Carney spoke on behalf of the Board of Selectmen. A Vietnam era veteran, Carney said that he often thinks of his classmates who died in Vietnam, and of his classmate Joseph F. Bellavia, whose son, SSG Joseph P. Bellavia, was killed in action in Iraq in 2003.
Joseph P. Bellavia Memorial Tree
“The heroes, soldiers and veterans who we honor today deserve our unwavering appreciation,” Carney said, “which can be done by honoring the flag under which they served. The flag symbolizes that their efforts were not in vain.”

In addition to remembering the war dead on Memorial Day, Rep. Mark Falzone called it “a day to reflect in general upon our lives.” He encouraged reaching out and reconnecting with family members and friends as well as to those in need.

Rep. Katherine Clark commended those who came out to attend Memorial Day ceremonies. “It is the day out of the year that we take time out of all of our business to pause and to reflect,” Clark observed, “to remember those who went to war for us and for our country and who did not return.”

Sen. Richard Tisei observed that the freedoms that Americans enjoy are what set us apart from other countries. “Our greatness comes from the fact that we are a tolerant nation that welcomes creativity and diversity,” Tisei said. As a result, Tisei noted, tens of thousands of people from nations around the world, are seeking to immigrate to America every day.

“Today is a day to remember that these freedoms that we all treasure were not free,” Tisei said. “The names carved into this World War II Monument and onto granite monuments all around town indicate the tremendous price that our community has paid over the years to defend our country.”

American Legion Senior Vice Commander and yesterday’s master of ceremonies Thomas Collins called to the microphone Phyllis Hull, chairman of the committee that is working to replace the deteriorating World War II Monument that served as a backdrop for yesterday’s observance.

“The most important thing to me right now,” Hull said, “is to make sure that we honor the World War II veterans, and we will get this World War II Memorial done.”
Phyllis Hull
The former selectmen noted that she walked door to door for votes in last month’s Town Election. “I really don’t care if I ever walk door to door for votes again,” Hull said. “But I will walk door to door to ask for money for the World War II Memorial.”

Earlier yesterday, the annual Memorial Day observance presented by the West Side Social Club got underway at 10 a.m. on Moulton Field, with local singer Carissa Scudieri performing the National Anthem.
Carissa Scudieri
WSSC Chaplain and yesterday’s master of ceremonies Kay Johnston called for the preservation of traditions like Memorial Day by instilling in today’s youth the importance of the sacrifices made every day by U.S. military men and women.

“With two wars underway, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public has no excuse not to remember,” Johnston said.

Selectman Paul DiNocco talked about the origins of Memorial Day dating back to the end of the Civil War, when it was proclaimed as a day to honor the nation’s war dead, and “to guard their graves with sacred vigilance.”

Through our present day observances, DiNocco said, “we stand at our own sacred vigilance and are reminded of those who have died in defense of their country.”

WSSC President Gary Johnston recalled as a young boy the mix of pride and anxiety he felt watching his older brother Kevin enlist in the Marine Corp and go off to fight in the Vietnam War. Johnston noted that his brother “made it home, all in one piece. Unfortunately, many of his fellow Marines did not.”

“It is with that same pride that I have for Kevin that I stand before you this morning and give praise to our U.S. military.”

Carissa Scudieri sang “Amazing Grace,” as sentries proceeded to the 29 trees encircling Moulton Field planted in memory of Wakefield soldiers who died defending their country. As each name was read, Julianne Russo placed a red rose in front of each of the memorial plaques and flags arranged in a row on the field.
Julianne Russo
Rep. Katherine Clark called Memorial Day “one of the most important days on our calendar” as Americans. “On this Memorial Day,” Clark said, “we remember and honor all the Wakefield veterans, and we also keep fresh in our minds the 94 Massachusetts servicemen who since September 11, 2001 have died in service to their country.

“To remember is to honor,” Clark concluded, “and that is our obligation for those who sacrificed so much for us.”

[This story originally appeared in the May 26, 2009 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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One Response to “Local Observances Honor War Dead”

  1. 1 Larry Goulet, Senior Chief Petty Officer, USN Ret

    I was honestly touched by Chief Master Sgt. Wilkes’ remarks. To me, Memorial Day has always been not only a day of remembrance, but a day of reflection. I feel humbled to have stood on the shoulders of the men and women, who came before me, and who gave so much. I am particularly reflective of the sacrifice of the men and women of “the greatest generation” – the World War II vets, who are leaving our ranks in numbers too great to fathom. But that is part of the continuum, the cycle of military life. And I am particularly thankful of the current all-volunteer generation who have filled the ranks and continued the tradition of going in harm’s way to preserve the peace.
    I remember in the early in the 70’s being in Australia and having the the honor of attending the ANZAC Day services held every April 25th to commemorate the Battle of Gallipoli (WWI) in which over 10,000 Australian and New Zealand forces (known as ANZAC’s) were killed. The services are very solemn when the Australia pauses to remember its war dead. And the services always end with the words: “Lest we forget”!
    I hope some where in our national consciousness, we, as a nation, will never forget to honor those who fought and died to preserve peace and the American way of life. Even through the tough times, we have so much to be grateful for!
    Fair winds and following seas!


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