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Veterans Day Program to Offer Familiar Theme, Different Look

Oct 29, 2020 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
The eighth annual Veterans Day program, scheduled for Nov. 11 at the Bellingham Town Common, will have a different look from that of previous events because of the Covid-19 pandemic; but the emphasis and the theme haven’t changed.

“Although our country is experiencing difficult times in dealing with the coronavirus, we must not forget the service and sacrifice of Bellingham veterans, past and present,” said Jim Hastings, Chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee. “On Nov. 11, we can pause, reflect and honor their service, courage and commitment.”

At the town’s first outdoor ceremony, which also will mark the 75th anniversary of the conclusion to World War II, it’s recommended that townspeople and visitors attending wear masks and observe social distancing. (Gov. Baker’s Covid-19 restrictions allow for 100 people at outdoor gatherings.)

The program will begin at 11 am at the Route 126 entrance to the common. Members of the Blackstone Valley Young Marine Color Guard, guest speakers, the Veterans Day Committee, and members of the Brian Boru Bagpipe Band will walk to the War Memorial to lay a wreath there; and the Rev. David Mullin, pastor of St. Brendan Church, will offer a prayer at the memorial.

The gathering then will shift to the gazebo for the National Anthem, sung by the Oliver brothers (Joseph and Robert), and the Pledge of Allegiance. The invocation will be given by Rick Marcoux, Chaplain of the Bellingham Fire Department.

Hastings will then deliver opening remarks before introducing a trio of local speakers—Laura Stanikmas, Jay Rowe and David Cutler.

Stanikmas graduated from Bellingham High in 2002, then served in the Army as a combat medic. While stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, with the 28th CSH, she deployed to Iraq, 2003-2004, primarily working at a 32-bed hospital in Tikrit and also providing support at the IBN Sina Hospital in Baghdad.

After serving, Stanikmas returned home and completed nursing school. She worked as an LPN for seven years and eventually obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 2014. She has held many health-care positions over the years and is now the clinical manager at Thrive Adult Primary Care in Franklin. She and her husband, Norman, were married in 2004 and settled in Bellingham. They have two children—Tyler and Liliana.
Rowe was born in Natick and moved to Bellingham when he was a year old. He joined the Army reserves in 1980, when he was a junior at Bellingham High. Graduating from BHS in 1982, Rowe continued to serve in the reserves until 1984, when he was released from the remainder of his Army contract as an E-4 diesel mechanic to join the Marine Corps, where he became a military policeman.

Rowe, who was discharged in 1987 as a Lance Corporal, still resides in Bellingham and is the owner of Jay Rowe Masonry. He also is the founder of the Children of Kilimanjaro Orphanage in Tanzania.

Cutler, who currently is the principal of Bellingham Memorial School, previously was principal at Keough Academy, giving him seven years in that role in Bellingham. After completion of his elementary and secondary education in Milford, he joined the Navy.
Cutler completed two combat tours in Iraq to include the initial invasion in 2003 as part of Task Force Tarawa, Detachment Mike, and then again for the Battle of Fallujah in 2004-2005 while assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) at Forward Operating Base Kalsu.

Keynote Speaker

Army Command Sgt. Major Stephanie Cleveland will be the keynote speaker.
Born in Bethlehem, PA, she joined the Army in 1999 as a print journalist. She assumed the position as garrison sergeant major of the Natick Soldier Systems Center in 2019.
Past assignments include U.S. Army Central at Shaw Air Force Base, SC; Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, KY; the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, KY; Training with Industry at Fleishman-Hillard International Communications in Atlanta, GA; U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii; the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, MD; the 17th Public Affairs Detachment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and the 50th Public Affairs Detachment and 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, GA.

Cleveland deployed three times to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and once to Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Spring. Her other deployments include Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand and Exercise Tandem Thrust in Tinian and Guam.

Cleveland is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. Her awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Army Service Ribbon.

Cleveland also has the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Award. She is the 2007 recipient of the SGM Dawn Kilpatrick AUSA Scholarship and a 2011 recipient of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Award.

Cleveland is married and has two adult stepdaughters.

The Oliver brothers will sing “God Bless America,” and three Grade 3 students from Stall Brook School and the DiPietro School will read their winning essays that focused on the meaning of Veterans Day. sxState Senator Ryan Fattman and State Representative Mike Soter will speak before a performance by the bagpipe band. The Rev. Baron Rodrigues, pastor of the First Baptist Church, will offer a closing prayer before the ceremony concludes with a moment of silence for deceased veterans and the playing of “Taps.”

A limited number of walk-away box lunches, compliments of PJ’s Bar and Grill, will be available after the ceremony.




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