Veterans Day Program Set for Nov. 11 at Bellingham LibraryOct 29, 2021 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey
Municipal Spotlight by KEN HAMWEY, Contributing Writer
Bellingham’s ninth annual Veterans Day program is scheduled for Thursday, November 11, at 11 AM, at the Bellingham Public Library.
The number 11 dominates the timing of the holiday, which was originally called Armistice Day. A peace treaty ending World War I was signed in 1918, and the agreement occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
“Although our country has been experiencing difficult and challenging 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 town’s Memorial and Veterans Day Committee. “On November 11, we can pause, reflect and honor their service, courage and commitment.’’
Hastings, a Marine who served in Vietnam, recommends that those attending the ceremony bring a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. “We still depend on state and local officials to issue protocols on gatherings, and we’re not sure what rules will be in place for November 11,’’ Hastings said.
The program will begin with the Blackstone Valley Young Marines posting the colors, followed by Robert Oliver singing the National Anthem. The Pledge of Allegiance will be recited before an opening prayer by Rick Marcoux, chaplain of the Bellingham Fire Department.
Hastings will offer opening remarks that will focus on the rigors and challenges that returning veterans face in their post-military days.
Two local veterans who will be speaking are Thomas Lane, the commander of the Bellingham VFW, and Mark Lacasse, who joined the Navy in 2009. At the Bulletin’s deadline (Oct. 15), Hastings said that the keynote speaker, who had not yet been selected, will be an active-duty soldier from the Natick Soldier System Center, formally known as Natick Labs.
Lane will be speaking about his military experiences in the Navy and also some of the objectives he hopes to fulfill at the VFW.
Lane and his family moved from Hyde Park to Bellingham, where they have been residents for about 35 years. He joined the Navy in 1965 after high school and immediately volunteered to go to Vietnam. Instead, the Navy sent him to Europe and Africa.
“Once I finally gave up volunteering, got married and had two kids, the Navy decided to send me to Vietnam,’’ Lane said. “I did two tours in Vietnam and spent 8 1/2 years in the Navy.’’
As for his current mission, Lane wants to dispel how the VFW is regarded. “Historically the VFW has been thought of as a smoke-filled bar where a bunch of old guys sit around and drink, tell war stories and swear a lot,’’ he said. “The real mission of the VFW is to assist veterans in need and to help the community it resides in.
“We actively seek out veterans in distress and reach out to help them. The help could be as little as paying to fill their heating oil tank, paying for repairs to their vehicles so they can get to work, paying utility bills and a host of other things.’’
The 74-year-old Lane said the VFW also sponsors programs like Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen, which offer scholarships to high school students and students in grades 6-8. The winners of these programs at the national level receive generous scholarships. “At the local level scholarships are smaller, but still available,’’ Lane said. “We also plan to start presenting awards to the fire fighter and police officer of the year.’’
Lane concludes that “It’s not your grandfather’s VFW.” His speech will urge those attending to “come in and find out what we’re really about.’’ He also emphasized that “donations are always welcome.”
Lacasse graduated from Bellingham High in 2006, joined the Navy three years later and was stationed on the USS Cape St. George in San Diego as an engine-man on board.
During Operation Enduring Freedom, Lacasse deployed twice to the Persian Gulf, where the ship’s mission was to protect the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. His ship was also part of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where it served as part of the security for the Winter Games.
Lacasse finished his service with the Navy in 2013 and returned to Bellingham with his family. Currently, he works for Jones Lang Lasalle as a facilities manager.
The program will continue with Oliver singing “God Bless America.” Then, Hastings will introduce retired school teacher Lori Fafard, who will present three fifth-grade students to read their winning essays that emphasize what it means to be a veteran and why veterans are special.
State Senator Ryan Fattman and State Representative Mike Soter will follow with brief remarks before Rev. Baron Rodrigues, pastor of the First Baptist Church, offers a closing prayer. The Young Marines then will carry the colors outdoors to the flagpole, where Rev. David Mullin, pastor of St. Brendan Church and a Navy veteran, will speak about the solemn nature of Veterans Day.
The program will conclude with a moment of silence for deceased veterans and the playing of “Taps.” Light lunches, compliments of PJ’s Bar and Grill, will be available after the ceremony.