Change of Venue, Additions Slated for Bellingham's Veterans Day Program
Oct 30, 2019 03:02PM
● By Pamela Johnson
Jim Hastings at the podium during last year's Patriots Day program
written by KEN HAMWEY, Contributing Writer
The seventh annual Veterans Day program, scheduled for Nov. 11 at 11 AM at Bellingham High School, will be a bit different from the previous events, but the emphasis and the day’s theme haven’t changed. “The program will focus primarily on celebrating veterans who’ve served their country in war and in peacetime,” said Jim Hastings, the chairman of the Memorial Day and Veterans Day Committee. “It’s a day to honor their commitment and their courage.”
What will be different, however, are venue for the event and two additional segments. Instead of hosting the ceremony at the library, where it was conducted for the previous six years, it’ll be at the high school auditorium and the cafeteria. After conclusion of the program in the auditorium, all those attending will be invited to the cafeteria, where lunch will be served and a 45-minute video will provide highlights of the four days that The Wall That Heals was in Bellingham (Aug. 22-25).
The program’s keynote speaker is Marine Colonel Justin Dunne, a native of Pound Ridge, NY. Two local Navy veterans—Father David Mullen of St. Brendan’s Church and Bill Eltzroth will also speak about their military experiences, along with Jerry Plante, a Marine veteran.
Dunne attended the Naval Academy and was commissioned as a Marine second lieutenant. After officer training and infantry courses, he served in a variety of assignments in California, Japan, and Washington, DC before deployment to Iraq. In 2005, he earned a master’s degree in national security affairs. In July, 2006, Dunne reported to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and later deployed to Afghanistan as the team leader for a counter-IED team in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After other assignments in the U.S., Dunne returned to Afghanistan as an advisor for the Afghan National Border Police. Later duties included stops in Hawaii, Japan and Washington DC. Dunne has earned honors that include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy and Army Achievement Medals.
“As part of Bellingham’s 300th anniversary celebration, we want to recognize the town’s residents who’ve served their country in all wars dating back to colonial times,” Hastings noted. “Their dutiful service to defend our country should never be forgotten.”
The program will begin with the presentation of colors by the 25th Marine Regiment from Fort Devens and the Blackstone Valley Young Marines followed by the National Anthem, sung by Robert and Joseph Oliver. The Pledge of Allegiance will precede the invocation, offered by Rick Marcoux, chaplain of the Bellingham, Franklin and Medway Fire Departments.
Hastings will provide opening remarks before the speakers, including State Rep. Mike Soter, address those attending. The Oliver brothers will sing another patriotic song, which will be followed by Fr. Mullen’s closing prayer. The colors will be retired followed by the playing of “Taps” by Thomas Cecelya, a 2019 Bellingham High graduate. An Eagle Scout, Cecelya is enrolled at UMass-Lowell.
Special invitations to the program and the luncheon went out to all of Bellingham’s veterans and to those who volunteered as guides and those who assembled The Wall That Heals.
After the blessing of the meal by First Baptist Church pastor Rev. Baron Rodrigues, the video will begin with music by Billy Joel performing “Goodnight Saigon.” What will follow will be sights showing the transporting of the wall from Wayland to Bellingham, the assembling of the wall, the four days of activities, the removal of the wall, and members of The Wall That Heals Committee expressing their feelings about participating in the eight-month journey to bring the wall to Bellingham.
Hastings, a Marine who served in Vietnam, said he will never forget the welcome that he and other veterans received as they traveled from Wayland to Bellingham as the replica of the wall headed toward its destination.
“It was such a fantastic welcome,” Hastings emphasized. “I had never felt such a welcoming since I came home from Vietnam 51 years ago. The cheering was amazing, and to see so many people waving flags was very moving. That day was very emotional.”