Memorial Day Returned to In-Person Ceremonies in 2022

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Memorial Day, 2020, at Veterans Memorial Park

 

The flag at half-staff at Shawsheen Cemetery

Memorial Day felt normal.

The message was universal: honoring fallen military personnel and their sacrifice. As Patriotic Holiday Committee Chair Paul Purchia said, “We have a solid duty as a grateful nation to remember them today.”

The sequence of ceremonies was familiar – a version of a tradition going back more than a half-century. The town’s array of war memorials were the sites of commemorative words, rifle volleys, and “Taps” on bugles, played by Bedford High School students Evan Karen and Alex Mattson.

The parade was replete with Memorial Day fixtures: the Fire Department honor guard, members of the Select Board, Grand Marshal John Cooper in a convertible, a contingent from the Bedford Minuteman Company, the BHS marching band, and Scouts. There were few watching from the streets, but small and enthusiastic groups of spectators clustered at each of the memorial stops.

After two years of various virtual and informal ceremonies, Memorial Day observances returned to Bedford Monday, without masks, social distancing, or proof of vaccination. It felt normal.

One aspect that was different was the themes of some of the remarks.

Emily Mitchell, Select Board chair, told the gathering at Veterans Memorial Park, “The energy of Bedford’s fallen soldiers, from the town’s earliest days to today, is still here, all around us and within us.”

But that was not a metaphor; it was the perspective of a physicist, as expressed by a National Public Radio commentator she cited, Aaron Freeman.

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral,” Mitchell quoted Freeman: to speak about “the conservation of energy,” as well as “the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed.

“You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. ”

Mitchell also made reference to recent mass shootings in the country, saying, “in the past several days, as once again, and again, and again, the weapons of soldiers were wielded by civilians fueled by hate.”

State Rep. Kenneth Gordon shared a couple of stories he felt were meaningful.

He described an aging linen 48-star U.S. flag he received from a Burlington family. Although no back story came with the flag, “it’s a tremendous honor for me to have it.” He said the flag serves as a personal metaphor, “a reminder of every man or woman who sacrificed but has not been properly recognized.”

Gordon also offered eulogies for two recently deceased veterans: his father-in-law, Jerre Daniell, and retired Superior Court Judge Robert Barton.

Also speaking at the park, home of the town’s World War II memorial, Lt. Col. Richard Baysinger, recently commander of Life Cycle Center Detachment 7 at Hanscom Air Force Base. He thanked the town “for continuing to be a faithful partner” to the installation.

Baysinger spoke of the history of Gold Star families as “part of the greater military family. We shall continue to honor our fallen with music, words – and silence.”

A few hours earlier, a small contingent paid tribute to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars at the monument outside American Legion Post 221, as well as those who fought in the Civil War at the Shawsheen Cemetery war memorial.

Don Corey, historian and public official, reprised his annual remarks about Bedford’s sacrifice in the Civil War. The ceremony then moved to the bridge across the Shawsheen for a brief ceremony honoring naval veterans.

During his remarks at Veterans Memorial Park, Gordon said new legislation is expected to result in naming that bridge in memory of retired Air Force Major Barry Seidman, a longtime Bedford resident who died in December 2020.

Before the parade, a small gathering at the Old Burying Ground saluted the Colonial Minutemen, with Captain Jim Ringwood of the current company reading the names. Historian Alethea Yates also spoke, along with Terrence Parker, who highlighted the three enslaved Black residents who accompanied the Minutemen to the battle in Concord on April 19,1775.

Yates also was the featured speaker at the World War I commemorative boulder on the Common. At the Bedford High School memorial plaza, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets conducted ceremonies commemorating the four BHS graduates who died in combat.

Click this link to read the speakers’ remarks

The Early Morning Exercises

The parade arrives at Veterans Memorial Park

The Speakers

Faces in the Crowd

 

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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