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Bellingham’s 147th Memorial Day Parade, Ceremony Set for May 20

Apr 27, 2018 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey

Jim Hastings speaks at last year's Memorial Day ceremony

written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Staff Writer

Gerard Dubois will be the Grand Marshal for Bellingham’s 147th Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Sunday, May 20, at 1 p.m.  A native of Bellingham, the 72-year-old Dubois served in Vietnam for 27 months and completed six years (1963-1969) with the Navy Seabees as a member of Mobile Construction Battalion No. 58. He worked as a heavy-duty equipment operator, clearing land for fire bases and pushing back perimeters for infantry soldiers. His home base was in Da Nang, but he spent time in  Chu-lai and Phu-bai. Ranked as an E-5 second-class petty officer, he was discharged because of injuries suffered in combat.

“Not everyone gets chosen to be a grand marshal for Memorial Day,” Dubois said. “This is a tremendous honor and I’m pleased to participate. Memorial Day is a time to be remembered and never forgotten. It’s about men and women going to battle to preserve all of the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Dubois, who’s married, has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He graduated from Norfolk Agricultural School. He enlisted in the Navy after high school and, after his discharge, worked as a trailer-truck driver for a medical distribution firm. A member of VFW Post 7272, he serves as Senior Vice Commander and Service Officer.

Jim Hastings, who’s been chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee for the last 12 years, echoed Dubois’ thoughts about the holiday. “Memorial Day is a time to pause and honor the memory of our service-men and -women for protecting us,” Hastings said. “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 ceremony has two themes. Besides honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice, it will focus on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the end of World War 1.

The keynote speaker will be Lieutenant Colonel John W. Strain II, the deputy commander of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. In civilian practice, he’s been a physician’s assistant for 20 years.

As an enlisted soldier, Strain was an Armor Crewman who participated as a member of the Excellence in Armor advanced training program. After leaving active duty, he served in the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1998 after completing the Inter-Service Physician Assistant and Officer Candidate Program. Strain served as a physician’s assistant for 15 years.

A highly decorated soldier (15 medals), Strain was selected as the Theodore Lyster Army Flight Surgeon of the Year for all U.S. Army components in 2011. He has a Bachelor of Science degree and a master’s degrees in physician assistant studies and national security and strategic studies. Strain; his wife, Rebecca; and seven-year-old twins Samuel and Wesley reside in Acworth, GA.

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 Committee encourages all to attend the ceremony after the parade as we honor our fallen service-men and -women,” Hastings said.

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

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 Wars I and II, Korean War and Vietnam War. The names will be read by members of the Bellingham High School Band. Also, names will be read of Bellingham veterans who died since last Memorial Day. Hastings emphasized that if anyone knows of a Bellingham resident who enlisted in the military since last year to contact him immediately at 508 966-0364 so that names can be added to the War Memorial and their service recognized.

“Amazing Grace” will be played by the Brian Boru Bagpipe Band, the Quaboag Highlanders Bagpipe Band and the Old Colony Highlanders Pipe Band, followed by a rifle volley, “Taps” by the Bellingham High Band and a closing prayer.

Some of the parade participants will include the U.S. Navy Silver Dolphins Drill Team, the U.S. Submarine Base (Groton, CT), the General Henry Knox Color Guard, the U.S. Army Color Guard of Natick, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard from Fort Devens, the U.S. Navy Color Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard, a Grand Marshal float, the Bellingham High School 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 Old Colony Pipe Band, the 1812 Constitution Marines, the Blackstone Valley Young Marines, the Massachusetts State Police Mounted Detail and riderless horse, the Crawford family’s World War I 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, Bellingham Boy and Girl Scout troops, Bellingham youth sports teams, Stall Brook and South Elementary students, a VFW float honoring World War I veterans, the Assabet Valley Marine Corps Jr. ROTC of Marlboro, a variety of military vehicles and a Veterans Day Committee 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, Brandon Parella, Melinda Crawford, Mark Lacasse and Tom Earnest.

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.”

For updates and background information on Facebook, go to “Bellingham Memorial Day Parade 20 May 2018.”




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