Compiled by The Bedford Citizen
Bedford gathered on Monday to remember and to honor the military service of generations that have served our country since its inception, from the heroes of the American Revolution interred in the Old Burying Ground, through modern heroes lost in faraway lands.
The ceremonies were captured for The Bedford Citizen by several photographers: Brandon Gordon, Barbara Purchia and Richark Krusemark. Be sure to click this link and see just some of the images they shared: Images of Memorial Day in Bedford.
Opening the ceremony at Memorial Park, Patriotic Ceremonies Chairman Paul Purchia noted the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I by quoting Canadian Army physician John McCrae. Written in May, 1915 Dr. McCrae describe the death he witnessed on the battlefields of “Flanders Fields,” a poem many remember: To you from falling hands we throw The Torch; be it yours to hold high. If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.
Purchia concluded, “May we now and for all years to come, Catch The Torch that Dr. McCrae spoke about in his poem and Raise it High to remember all the brave souls who still rest in Flanders fields, in the cemeteries close to the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, and let us honor those who fought and died on the frozen battlefields of Korea, in the steamy jungles of Vietnam, in the deserts of Iraq and on the mountains of Afghanistan. Their sacrifices have kept us a free people. We have a solemn duty as a nation to remember them on this Memorial Day and throughout the year.”
Click to read Purchia’s opening remarks.
Brig. Gen. Oscar DePriest gave the invocation before the Bedford High School band played “God Bless America” and Col. David Hiltz (USAF) gave the keynote address.
Margot Fleischman, Chairman of Bedford’s Selectmen, also recalled the anniversary of World War I, noting that it had been her grandfather’s war, “one of the most devastating conflicts in the history of humankind.”
She also recalled that during the Civil War, graves began to be tended by others in addition to families on Decoration Day, the observance we now know as Memorial Day, “One of the earliest Decoration days took place on May 1, 1865 when a large number of former slaves reinterred the remains of hundreds of Union soldiers buried far from home, giving dignity to those who had died “in a ritual of remembrance and consecration.”
Click to read the full text of Margot Fleischman’s remarks.
In his Memorial Day speechs, State Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) spoke of Massachusetts’ newly established Valor Act II. “This new law will provide new resources to Veterans Agents such as Bill Linehan to help our servicemen and women,” Gordon said. “It provides funding to help veterans start small business, obtain professional licenses, and find employment, because the unemployment rate among returning veterans is way too high.”
The bill also assures that students called to active duty will not lose credits or tuition and provides funding for wounded warriors returning from action to modify their homes to prepare for their new lives. The bill also doubles the buffer zone to 500 feet around a military funeral so that in Massachusetts no one can interrupt a sacred memorial ceremony.
Gordon went on to quote George Washington, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country,” before noting his gratitude for the opportunity to help veterans in Massachusetts.
Click here to read the full text of Ken Gordon’s Memorial Day Remarks.
Georgia Pitner read her winning essay “Why Memorial Day and our Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future.”
The Roll Call of Veterans who died during the past year was read by Joe Piantedosi, and poppies were placed on each of the plaques commemorating the thirteen Bedford residents killed in action in WW II, Vietnam, and Iraq. The flag was raised by Grand Marshal Gonsalves and Hugo Garcia (AL) offered Benediction. The Bedford High ROTC gave a rifle salute, followed by TAPS.
Bedford Veterans Killed In Action
- WWII: Frederick Genetti, US Navy; George Vetterman, US Army; Alfred Kace, US Army; Gregory Muldoon, US Army; Leslie Neville, US Navy; John E. Ross, US Navy; Charles Ryan, US Army; Ralph Hume, US Navy
- Vietnam: Dennis M. O’Neill, US Army; Terry M. Reed, US Air Force; Robson W. Wills, US Army
- Iraq: JOHN D. Hart, US Army; Travis R. Desiato, US Marine Corps
The Past Year’s Deceased Veterans
- WWII: Robert M. Barrett, Carl A. Bumbaca, James J. Carroll Jr., Raymond E. Claflin Jr., Athanasis V. Daguvanos, Roger A. Johnson, Terzo A. Lombardini, Theodore R. Madden, Edward C. McCaffery, Robert E. Michaud, Charles W. Rosenberg, Harold W. Russell, and Michael A. Zampitella.
- WWII, Korea & Vietnam: Donald H. Hilker
- Korea: William J. Aldorisio Jr., Alfred L. Dunn, Frank A. Battaglia, Robert J. Bilafer, George E. Brady, James T. Blasi, Jan Boon Jr., John I. Boland, Philip J. Dutra, Thomas F. Flynn, William A. Goodwin, Paul E. Hurtle, Michael Kalajian, Robert I. Millar, Nicholas Pappas, George C. Swallow Jr., and Stephen L. Zolnay.
- Vietnam: Lucius R. Draper, Lawrence E. Gardini, Richard P. Saliga, Margaret Schowalter, and Dennis F. Shields.
- Persian Gulf: Garry Duffey
- Peacetime or Unknown: Frank Bauman, Robert L. Crowley, Marjorie B. Healy, August W. Kallmeyer, Marcel S. Lipczer, and John O’Connor Sr.
Earlier in the day, ceremonies took place in several locations throughout Bedford
Bedford’s Memorial Day ceremonies began early in the morning when Chaplain Jerry Hartmann offered prayers at the American Legion hall, Boy Scout troop 194 held a wreath ceremony, followed by Firing Squad Volleys and the playing of TAPS. The observance continued at Shawsheen Cemetery where Brig. Gen. Oscar DePriest offered a prayer and Don Corey of the Bedford Historical Society offered remarks. V.F.W. and American Legion Commanders tossed a memorial wreath into the Shawsheen River in honor of Navy Veterans.
At the Old Burying Ground on Springs Road, Capt. Bryan Nash of the Bedford Minutemen Company introduced Lee Yates who spoke about the veterans interred there. Capt. Nash read the Roll Call of all Revolutionary War Veterans, and Terrence L. Parker offered a brief history of the ex-slaves buried there. The fifers of the Bedford Minuteman Company played “Amazing Grace,” followed by a musket volley and TAPS played by members of the Bedford High School Band.
Before the parade stepped off, with long-time Bedford resident Grand Marshall Senior Master Sgt. Tony Gonsalves, USAF Ret, at the helm there was a tribute at Fallen Veterans Memorial in front of Bedford High School. The parade stopped at the WWII memorial on Bedford Common where a prayer was offered by V.F.W. Chaplain Malcolm Roberts, V.F.W. The parade continued to Memorial Park.
Editor’s Note: In preparing this story, The Bedford Citizen gratefully acknowledges the help of OC O’Connor, Paul Purchia, our volunteer photographers and the speakers who graciously shared their remarks.