Bellingham’s 148th Memorial Day Parade, Ceremony Set for May 19Apr 29, 2019 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey
Jim Hastings speaks at last year's Memorial Day ceremony
written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Staff Writer
There will be multiple Grand Marshals for Bellingham’s 148th Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Sunday, May 19, at 1 p.m. The marshals include Johnny Hayes (Army, representing veterans of the war in Afghanistan); Robert Hastings (Marine Corps, representing veterans of the Iraq War); Albert Ranaghan (Army, representing veterans of Desert Storm); and Dave Dunbar (Air Force, representing veterans of the Vietnam War). At Bulletin deadline, grand marshals for the Korean War and World War II had not been determined. Deborah Sampson, portrayed by Janet Parnes, will represent those who fought in the Revolutionary War. Sampson was the first woman to fight in the military and she enlisted in Bellingham.
Jim Hastings, who’s been chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee for the last 13 years, offers these thoughts about the holiday: “Memorial Day is a time to pause and honor the memory of our servicemen and women for protecting us. 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.’’
Since the town is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, the ceremony’s theme is to honor men and women from Bellingham who faithfully served their country for the last 300 years.
The keynote speaker will be Army Brigadier General Vincent Malone, the Commanding General of the Natick Soldier System, which tests food and clothing for all of the nation’s troops.
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 servicemen and women,’’ Hastings said.
The ceremony will continue with music provided by the Senior Center Chorus, the Bellingham High School chorus and soloists Joseph and Robert Oliver, both Bellingham High graduates. Then, before comments from the Grand Marshals, Hastings will thank the Memorial Day Committee and military and civic groups for their participation.
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, Korea and Vietnam. The names will be read by the grand marshals. Also, names of Bellingham veterans who have died since last Memorial Day will be read. If anyone knows of a Bellingham resident who enlisted in the military since last year, Hastings would appreciate their contacting him immediately at 508 966-0364 so that names can be added to the War Memorial to recognize their service.
“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, the playing of “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 and Memorial Middle School Bands, Douglas High 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, the Crawford family’s floats (one for Allie Crawford, their father, and one for the 300th anniversary of Bellingham residents serving their country), and fire departments from Hopedale, Blackstone, Franklin, Medway, Wrentham and Woonsocket.
Other participants include the local clergy, elected town and state officials, including State Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco Urena, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, 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 DiPietro Elementary students, a VFW float, a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter towed on a flatbed trailer, the Assabet Valley Marine Corps Jr. ROTC of Marlboro, a variety of military vehicles and a Memorial 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 Sam Cowell, Paula Saliba, Kirk Crawford, Brandon Perella, Melinda Crawford, Chris Foley 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.’’
Three months after the Memorial Day parade, there will be a four-day stretch in August when residents and visitors can view “The Wall That Heals,’’ a three-quarter replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. It will be coming to Bellingham as part of the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. On Aug. 20, a motorcycle parade will escort a truck transporting the wall, which is scheduled to be set up at the field between the Middle School and the artificial turf field.
The wall comprises 140 panels made of synthetic granite supported by aluminum framing. When the wall is completed, the exhibit will span 375 feet, and its tallest point will be 7½ feet. About 58,000 names are engraved on the replica with LED lighting along the top of the wall to facilitate day-and-night reading.
The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day for four days. Once the wall is erected, the truck that transported the panels will be changed into a mobile education center. The exterior of the trailer features a timeline of the war and the wall and offers more information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. For more information, go to www.twthbellingham.org.