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Bellingham's 145th Memorial Day Parade, Ceremony Set for May 22

Apr 28, 2016 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey

Committee Chairman Jim Hastings at last year's Memorial Parade Ceremony

Pearl Harbor survivor Gerald Halterman will be the Grand Marshal for Bellingham’s 145th Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Sunday, May 22, at 1 pm. The 95-year-old Halterman, who lives in Sudbury, was a communications officer in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii on the USS Oklahoma. While ashore on duty the night of Dec. 6, 1941, he received a message that the USS Ward had been fired on and, shortly thereafter, low-flying planes appeared.

Halterman transmitted the first radio message about the attack. He still vividly recalls that day in great detail—“the noise, the smoke and the oil-soaked sailors.” Four-hundred and twenty-nine of his shipmates on the USS Oklahoma were lost that day. He remained at Pearl Harbor through April 1943, when he was chosen for officer training and sent to St. Ambrose College in Iowa.

After the war he joined the Naval Reserve, went to Amherst College on the GI Bill and had a 35-year career with Raytheon in the missile systems division in engineering and public relations. A native of Carbondale, Illinois, he lived in Framingham for many years but now resides in Sudbury. He was married in 1945 and is the father of three sons. He was awarded the Pearl Harbor Medal.
“Memorial Day is a time to pause and honor the memory of our service men and women for protecting us,” said Jim Hastings, who’s been chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee for the last 10 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 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which started the United States’ involvement in World War II. At Bulletin deadline, it was still undetermined who the keynote speaker will be.

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 the Gettysburg Address.

The ceremony will continue with music provided by the Senior Center Chorus, the Bellingham High School Chorus and soloist Joseph Oliver, a junior 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.

Prior to the keynote address, the 1812 USS Constitution Marines will escort the keynote speaker to the Civil War Monument, where a wreath will be laid. Grand Marshal Halterman will be escorted by the 13th Massachusetts 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. Hastings emphasized that if anyone knows of a Bellingham resident who enlisted in the military since last year they should contact him at 508 966-0364 so that their names can be added to the War Memorial.

“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 service men 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 and Memorial Middle School bands, 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 Massachusetts Volunteers (a Civil War re-enactment group), the U.S. Navy Silver Dolphins Ceremonial Drill Team from Groton, CT, the Massachusetts State Police Mounted Detail and riderless horse, the Crawford family’s Pearl Harbor float (replica of the USS Arizona), 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, Bellingham Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Bellingham youth sports teams, Stall Brook and South elementary students, a VFW float, a variety of military vehicles and a town of Bellingham float.

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,” said Hastings. Besides Hastings, the Memorial Day Committee includes Marilyn Fuller, 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. Hastings puts Memorial Day in perspective by emphasizing that “it’s the people in military uniforms who are heroes, not professional athletes or movie stars.”
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