150th Memorial Day Ceremony Scheduled for May 23Apr 29, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
Committee Chairman Jim Hastings at a previous Memorial Ceremony
MUNICIPAL SPOTLIGHT written by Ken Hamwey, Contributing Writer
Bellingham will reach an amazing milestone when its Memorial Day ceremony is held on Sunday, May 23, at 1 pm at the Town Common. The ceremony will be its 150th.
“The 150th ceremony is an incredible tribute to the town for continually honoring the service and sacrifices of men and women of Bellingham who proudly served their country,’’ said Jim Hastings, Chairman of the Memorial Day and Veterans Day Committee. “Bellingham may not be a large town, but it’s a proud and patriotic community.’’
For the second straight year, there will be no parade because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will observe all coronavirus restrictions in place at the time of the ceremony (wearing of masks and social distancing very likely).
The keynote speaker will be Lieutenant Colonel James D. Fleming, Inspector-Instructor of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment at Fort Devens. Other speakers include Master Sergeant Albert Renaghan, U.S. Army Retired, and Tom Earnest, who attained the rank of Petty Officer First Class during his 14 years with the Navy. Renaghan and Earnest are Bellingham residents.
The ceremony will begin with a march from the common’s Rte. 126 entrance to the Civil War and World War II memorials. Two wreaths will be placed at each of the memorial sites followed by a prayer, a rifle salute (Bellingham Police Department) and the playing of “Taps.”
An invocation will start the program at the gazebo followed by the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Gettysburg Address will be recited by Liam Cunningham, a seventh-grade student from the Memorial School, before the Senior Chorus sings “God Bless America.”
Hastings will deliver opening remarks, and State Representative Mike Soter will offer his thoughts about the holiday. Besides the emphasizing of Bellingham’s 150th Memorial Day ceremony, the 30th anniversary of Desert Storm will also be recognized. Renaghan, who deployed to Saudi Arabia, will focus his comments on Operation Desert Storm, which began in 1991 in Kuwait.
A resident of Bellingham for almost 50 years, Renaghan is a graduate of Don Bosco Technical High School. He earned a certificate of completion in machine processing from Wentworth Institute and later received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and a Master of Arts in public administration from Framingham State University.
Renaghan enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National Guard in March 1967. His military occupational specialty was food services, specifically hospital food services. He was assigned to the 455th General Field Hospital, U.S. Army Reserves, in Providence, RI, and later to the 803rd Medical Group in Boston, with whom he deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
Renaghan was awarded the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Meritorious Unit Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, The National Defense Medal, Southwest Asian Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and Saudi Arabian for the Liberation of Kuwait Medal.
Earnest, who was born in Boston, joined the Navy in 1990 and trained to be a Gas Turbine Systems Technician. He was stationed on the USS Simpson and USS Estocin from 1991 to 1998. He married Judi Brennan in 1993 at Assumption Church and has resided in Bellingham since 2000. He received an honorable discharge after serving over 14 years of active duty.
Earnest’s numerous military decorations include Master Training Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Coast Guard Unit Commendation Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Navy “E” Ribbon, Naval Reserve Sea Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Pistol (Expert) Medal.
The ceremony will continue with Committee member Sam Cowell reading the names of Bellingham veterans who passed away during the last two years. The Oliver brothers (Robert and Joseph) will sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” before Hastings introduces Fleming, a career infantryman who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1992 and served as a team leader with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
After his release from active duty, he served with 6th Engineer Support Battalion while attending Penn State University. Commissioned in 2001, he served as a rifle, weapons, and scout-sniper platoon commander with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. In 2005, he returned to the Selected Marine Corps Reserve and served in a variety of assignments, including duty with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, and a tour assessing the protection of overseas facilities for U. S. Central Command.
Returning to the active component in 2007, Fleming was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, serving with Manpower Management’s Enlisted Assignments Branch. From 2009 to 2012, he led rifle companies in both 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the Operations Officer for 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and deployed with an Advise and Assist Team, supporting the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army.
From 2016 to 2019, he served as a planner, and later as Future Operations Officer for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Fleming’s professional military resident education includes Expeditionary Warfare School, the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and its School of Advanced Military Studies. He is a qualified parachutist, combatant diver, scout-sniper, and graduate of the U. S. Army’s Ranger School. His contingency and combat experience include Operations Silver Wake, Guardian Retrieval, Iraqi Freedom, (three deployments), and Enduring Freedom (two deployments).
Closing ceremonies will include the reading of names by Renaghan and Earnest of all 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 Brian Boru Bagpipe Band will perform “Amazing Grace,” followed by a rifle volley, “Taps” and the closing prayer.
Students at the Memorial School will design Memorial Day floats, and the committee will select a winner before May 23. A full-scale replica of the winning float will be displayed in the common’s parking lot during the ceremony.
Hastings emphasized that if anyone knows of a Bellingham resident who enlisted in the military during the last two years, they should contact him at 508-966-0364 so that names can be added to the War Memorial to recognize their service. The committee also extends an invitation to any Desert Storm veterans residing in the area to attend the ceremony.