Memorial Day,Westport, MA, May 28, 2012
Nearly fifty veterans, from the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqui Freedom, are buried in Beech Grove Cemetery in Westport, MA. Today's parade route is from Town Hall to Beech Grove Cemetery then back on Main Road to Town Hall for closing ceremonies and refreshments for all. The event lasted approximately two hours.
A Day of Celebration and Commemoration
A parade, especially the Memorial Day Parade, is the glue that holds this little town together. Westport men have fought in wars from The Civil War to Afghanistan. There are scores of red, white and blue flags waving in the gentle breeze at Beech Grove Cemetery today.
The Memorial Day Parade was the first parade that hundreds of today’s spectators marched in when they were kids themselves. Yes, they’d heard school lessons about the patriotic meaning of the day but it was really special because they got to wear their uniforms - band or baseball or cub scout or brownie - and hear cheers from their relatives and friends along the route from Town Hall to Beech Grove Cemetery.
Now grown, they are lining the parade route to snap photos of their own children, grandchildren and peers. They understand the excitement on children’s faces.
Understand this. In Westport, nearly everyone in public service and youth organizations marches. It’s been that way a long time.
Dana Reed born 1926, now 86, was in his first parade as an 11 year old with his Westport Boy Scout troop. “They lined us up and taught us how to march, they don’t march properly today,” Reed observed. He knows a thing or two about marching. A Navy veteran, he served in the North Atlantic for WWII and was called back to sea again for the Korean War. Today he was right on cadence with the men of James Morris Post 145 American Legion of Westport, MA.
The Beaulieu brothers, Douglas and Barry, standing with their families atop the stone embankment near the Friends Meeting House, have been coming to the parade since they were kids, heck, they marched in this parade when they were kids. One Beaulieau son is a policeman, one a fireman who served in Iraqui Freedom, one niece is in the band and their granddaughter’s third grade teacher who’s wearing his Cub Scout Leader hat today is leading his “pack”. There’s a sense of pride here. This will be a joyfully loud place to be when these Beaulieu representatives march by.
Veterans of WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan march. The Board of Selectmen marches. State Police, Color Guards from surrounding towns, firemen, police and auxiliary officers march. Like “the wave” at Fenway Park, a quiet and respectful applause ripples down Main Road as each of these groups pass the spectators. And about a hundred of those cub scouts, brownies, and “The Blue Wave” Westport Schools band march. Some day these kids will watch their own kids march.
As the procession makes a turn into the cemetery, the day’s mood abruptly veers from festive to solemn. Those granite headstones point to our ultimate destination, at least for those old enough to understand that life is a finite proposition. Even the children are a little spooked. They don't need much of a reminder to quiet down.
A hush descends upon hundreds of onlookers as they form around the tall white pole with its flag at half staff in the center of the cemetery. The citizens may argue about warrant items at Town Meeting but there’s no discord here. It’s time to remember those who served the country, and to be thankful for what we often take for granted.
Jerry LeBoeuf, entering his second year as Westport Veteran’s Agent after taking over for highly regarded Ron Costa, his recently retired predecessor, sets the tone by reading President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Prayer For Peace.
One after another, men in uniform come forward. They understand the pain of families like those of Westport's Michael Bono, who served in Operation Iraqui Freedom and died in a non-combat related accident at Camp Merrill in Georgia. The cost of war is not a line item in the budget. It is blood.
Words like “the fallen,” “heroes,” “the ultimate sacrifice,” “died for our country,” echo in this cemetery and probably in thousands of burial grounds across America today. The words are true, the sentiment is right, but one of the last men to speak says in less than a minute the truest words I hear all day.
“War is ugly. I hate wars. Hate the war but honor the warriors.” David Cordier, a burly uniformed man in black beret, a man long on sentiment and short on sentimentality, Commander of the Vietnam Veteran’s of America Westport MA Post 207, hit the mark.
A lone bugler blows a mournful “Taps”. A contingent of the parade group retraces its route to Town Hall. Prayers are spoken. The flag is raised to full staff. This Memorial Day is history. Hundreds of spectators head to the rear of town hall to socialize with cold milk, hot coffee, doughnuts, water, juice and home made blueberry cake.
How American is that?
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
Jeanne Aquilla (photo Left) and Helene Hardin (photo Right) hand flags to spectators. Jeanne Aquilla’s husband Joe has been Commander of the James Morris Post 145 American Legion Post Westport MA for the past five years. “He’s giving his first Memorial Day speech today,” Jeanne says. Five area veteran’s groups rotate hosting the annual Memorial Day event. The Aquillas have lived in Westport for 32 years.
Douglas and Barry Beaulieu and their families (details in story) and Tillie of North Westport, her son and granddaughter.
Westport's Blue Wave Marching Band; Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Scout pack leader "Mr. T", fourth grade teacher...
The family of Michael Bono, who served in Operation Iraqui Freedom and died in a non-combat related accident at Camp Merrill in Georgia, returns to their seats after laying a wreath at the flagpole
Veterans listen as Veteran's Agent Jerry LeBoeuf (former Marine) reads President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Prayer For Peace
Cub scouts, Brownies, high school children lay wreathes at the flagpole; a 21 gun salute
Organizers said the turnout for the parade was one of the largest in recent memory
A busy line at the refreshment stand behind Town Hall; pt and Dana Reed, WWII and Korea Navy veteran