Wakefield Honors Its Fallen Heroes

28May14

Memorial Day 2014 in Wakefield, Massachusetts

victorAs sun and clouds waged a day-long battle overhead, hundreds of residents turned out yesterday for local ceremonies honoring those who gave their lives in defense of America.

“The freedoms we do enjoy,” keynote speaker Victor Santaniello told the crowd at the West Side Social Club’s morning program on Moulton Field, “do come at a very high price.” He spoke of the over 1.3 million Americans who have died in wars since 1775. To them, Santaniello said “we owe our thanks and our honor.”

Santaniello currently serves as the Director of Assessments for both Wakefield and Reading. He spoke of his service as a United States Air Force veteran, serving as an Aircraft Loadmaster aboard the C141B Starlifter with the 15th Military Airlift Squadron/63rd Military Aircraft Wing out of Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, Calif.

“My military service helped make me the man I am today,” Santaniello said. “The discipline and sense of purpose can instill confidence that stays with you long after your discharge.”

WSSC president David Ouelette held up one of two Purple Hearts awarded to his uncle, Rudolph “Red” Ouelette in World War II. Dave Ouelette said that his uncle never wanted to talk about how he earned those Purple Hearts.

“It occurred to me later,” Ouelette said, “that for men like my uncle the ‘how’ of those medals being earned was not important to them. It was the ‘why’ they were earned.” Those men, Ouelette added, “made that sacrifice so that we would have the opportunity to live in a world of freedom.”

ann_santosSelectman Ann Santos spoke of receiving the Anthony G. Velardo Award for Citizenship when she was in the 8th grade.

“Lance Corporal Velardo was killed in action in Vietnam in March of 1966, three months before I was born and 14 years before I received the award at Wakefield Junior High School,” Santos said.

“Tony Velardo was not much older than my son when he lost his life fighting for his country,” Santos said. “He was one of many Wakefield young men to leave the safety of our small town to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

“It is important for our children to know,” Santos said, “that these boys walked the same school halls, played on the same fields, experienced their first crushes and ultimately made the selfless decision to serve their country – making that decision when they were still so young.”

Edward Muse presided over the WSSC ceremonies. He spoke of the 18 trees planted around the park in 1945 to honor West Side men killed in World War II and the 11 trees planted since then in memory of deceased Wakefield veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Iraq Wars. Those 29 trees were rededicated at yesterday’s ceremonies.

Local singer Carissa Scudieri performed the National Anthem, “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace” at the WSSC’s morning ceremonies.

memorial_day_parade14Following a 1 p.m. parade from the Galvin Middle School, the town’s Memorial Day program got underway under the auspices of the town’s Veterans’ Services Office and hosted by local American Legion Post 63 in front of the World War II Monument on Veterans’ Memorial Common. American Legion Commander Thomas Collin served as master of ceremonies.

Following the invocation by Rev. Glenn Mortimer of Wakefield-Lynnfield United Methodist Church, Collins introduced Wakefield High School junior Adam Tarpey who sang the National Anthem.

Brian Falvey, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, spoke of the history of Memorial Day, from its origins in the South as “Decoration Day.”

brian_falvey052614“To be sure, Wakefield residents and their families have made incredible sacrifices,” Falvey said. “On behalf of the people of Wakefield, I want to express how particularly grateful we will always be to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may walk the streets of our town, this Commonwealth and this nation knowing we are free.”

State Rep. Paul Brodeur spoke of the importance of recognizing the families of fallen heroes.

“Memorial Day is about the hole that is created in people’s lives when their loved ones answer that call,” Brodeur said. “We also stand here to remember the families who remember that loss and feel it as if it happened yesterday. For those of you who are carrying that loss, we grieve with you, we honor your service and we will not forget the sacrifice that you and your loved ones made.”

Rep. Donald Wong took the microphone as drops of rain fell on the crowd from a passing dark cloud.

“The rain that you feel is not rain,’ Wong said. “It is teardrops from the people who can’t be here – joyful teardrops, happy that we are here in their memory, that we have not forgotten. They gave up their future so we could have a better future.”

Sen_Jason_LewisState Senator Jason Lewis recalled leaving his birthplace of South Africa at age 12 with his family to come to America “drawn by the promise of freedom, equality and opportunity for all people. We gather today to honor the men and women who died to preserve that very freedom.”

Keynote speaker Thomas J. Lyons is a Wakefield resident and a United States Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. Lyons has a lengthy and impressive resume of service to veterans, serving in a variety of positions in veterans’ agencies and organizations, including Deputy Commissioner for Veterans’ Services for the City of Boston from 1984 to 1995.

“On this day, we remember the valiant dead from the battlefields that scar our history,” Lyons said. “It is for those who survived to remember sacrifice and to honor our heroes.”

Thomas_LyonsHe spoke of the need to keep our country strong. “Wars are not prevented,” Lyons said, “because one side is more logical or kind. This country is great because it has been strong.” That strength, he stressed, derives from individual citizens willing to take up arms to preserve America’s principles.

It is up to the living, Lyons said, to remember and give meaning to the ultimate sacrifice of those who died in the service of their country.

“We must remember their sacrifice and never forget,” Lyons said, “for poor is the nation that has no heroes. Shameful is the nation that has them and forgets.”

[This story originally appeared in the May 27, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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