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Bellingham’s 144th Memorial Day Parade, Ceremony Set for May 17

May 01, 2015 06:21AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey

Sal Pilla, Grand Marshal of last year's Memorial Parade

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas R. Reilly will be the keynote speaker and Ida Parker will be the Grand Marshal for Bellingham’s 144th Memorial Day Parade and ceremony on Sunday, May 17, at 1 pm. The 1 o’clock starting time, which traditionally had been 2 pm, is a major change in the format.

Lt. Col. Reilly joined the 25th Marine Regiment in 2013 and served as the operations officer until 2014. He is now the Regimental Inspector Instructor. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history from the United States Naval Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1991.

He’s a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School and the Joint Operations Planning and Execution System Managers Course.

His military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign medal.

His combat and exercise deployments include service in Operation Enduring Freedom with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; Exercise Cobra Gold with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force; and Exercise Tandem Thrust with the 1st Marine Division.

Ida Parker, who is 96, has lived in Bellingham for 94 years. She was a clerk typist in the Army Air Corps, and as Acting Master Sergeant she was stationed at Moody Field in Georgia. She could have attended Officer Candidate School but turned down the opportunity because, she said, “I loved serving with the women in my troop.” Her troop was the second in the nation to receive the WAC designation, which gave the women the same benefits as men.

“Memorial Day is a time when we can pause to honor the memory of our servicemen and women for protecting us,” said Jim Hastings, who’s been chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee for the last nine years. “If it weren’t for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we’d be living in a different type of United States. They’re the ones who’ve enabled us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.”

The theme of the program, besides honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice, is the remembrance of the anniversaries ending World War II, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.
The parade will begin at the Memorial Middle School and proceed down Route 126 to the center of town. The procession will stop at the World War I Memorial (in front of Town Hall) for a rifle salute and placement of a wreath, which will be followed with the playing of “Taps.” The parade route will end at the town common, where the program will begin with an invocation, the National Anthem and a recitation of the Gettysburg Address.

The ceremony will continue with music provided by the Senior Center Chorus, the Bellingham High School chorus and soloist Robert Oliver, a senior at Bellingham High. Hastings will then thank the Memorial Day Committee and military and civic groups for their participation before comments from the Grand Marshal.

After Lt. Col. Reilly’s address, he will be escorted by the 1812 USS Constitution Marines to the Civil War Monument, where a wreath will be laid. Parker will be escorted by the 13th MA Volunteers to the World War II Monument, where another wreath will be laid.

Closing ceremonies will include the reading of the names of Bellingham residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. The names will be read by members of the Bellingham High School Band. Also, names of Bellingham veterans who died since last Memorial Day will be read.

“Amazing Grace” will be played by the Brian Boru and Quaboag Highlanders Bagpipe Bands, followed by a rifle volley, “Taps” by the Bellingham High Band and a closing prayer.
“The Committee encourages all to attend the closing ceremonies on the common after the parade as we honor our fallen servicemen and women,” Hastings said.

Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” after the Civil War. During the post-Civil War period, children traditionally decorated graves with flowers. To honor that tradition, children are encouraged to bring a small plant that will be planted at the Civil War Memorial.

Some of the parade participants will include the U.S. Army Color Guard of Natick, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard from Fort Devens, the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard, the Grand Marshal, the Bellingham High Band, Bellingham Memorial Middle School Band, Douglas High School Band, Blackstone-Millville Middle School Band, Brian Boru Bagpipe Band of Woods Hole, Quaboag Highlanders Bagpipe Band, the 1812 Constitution Marines, the Blackstone Valley Young Marines, the 13th MA Volunteers, a Civil War re-enactment group; the U.S. Navy Silver Dolphins Ceremonial Drill Team from Groton, CT; the MA State Police Mounted Detail and riderless horse, the Crawford family and its float, and fire departments from Hopedale, Blackstone, Franklin, Medway, Wrentham and Woonsocket.

Other participants include the local clergy, elected town and state officials, the Bellingham Fire Department and antique fire apparatus, antique fire trucks, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary float, the Bellingham Women of Today, the Bellingham High girls basketball team that was sectional champs, Bellingham Boys and Girls Scout troops, the Bellingham girls softball teams, Bellingham Youth Soccer teams, Stall Brook and South Elementary students, a VFW float, a town of Bellingham float and floats that honor veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm.

Hastings urges any veteran who would like to march to contact him or just arrive at the middle school. “We welcome all veterans to participate whether in uniform or wearing something designating your branch of service,” he said. Hastings can be contacted at 508-966-0364.
The Memorial Day Committee once again has assembled an impressive lineup for the parade and the program. Besides Hastings, the members are Marilyn Fuller, Kevin Houlihan, Sam Cowell, Paula Saliba, Kirk Crawford, Allen Crawford, Melinda Crawford, Debra Parker and Wade Parker.

The committee requests that all parade participants refrain from throwing candy into the crowd because of the solemn meaning of the holiday.

“The committee is proud of our lineup for Memorial Day,” Hastings said. “I’ve said it before but I’ll emphasize it again—it’s the people in military uniforms who are heroes, not professional athletes or movie stars.”
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