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Municipal Spotlight Veterans Day Program Nov. 11 at Bellingham Library

Speakers for Bellingham’s Veterans Day Program will include Navy veterans James Begley (right) and Bill Elzroth (left), both of Bellingham, and keynote speaker Lt. Col. Andrew A. White (Center), Comd. for the U.S. Army Garrison at Natick Soldier Systems Center.

By KEN HAMWEY, Contributing Writer
The 10th annual Veterans Day program is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. 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 challenging times, we must not forget the service and sacrifice of Bellingham veterans, past and present,’’ said Jim Hastings, who’s been the Chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee for the last 15 years. “On Nov. 11, we can pause, reflect and honor their service, courage and commitment.’’
The program will begin with the Blackstone Valley Young Marines posting colors and Robbie and Joe Oliver singing the National Anthem. Pastor Baron Rodrigues of Bellingham’s First Baptist Church will recite The Pledge of Allegiance. 
Hastings, who served in the Marine Corps, will offer opening remarks focused on the rigors and challenges that returning veterans face in their post-military days. Hastings and the committee continue to recognize the service of Bellingham veterans — recently adding banners on lamp posts at the town common.
“Bellingham’s military history involves many of its sons and daughters answering the call to serve their country,’’ Hastings said. “The town common display recognizes their service, and in the future we hope to add more banners that emphasize their sacrifice.’’
Three speakers will be featured — Navy veterans James Begley and Bill Elzroth, both of Bellingham, and keynote speaker Lieutenant Colonel Andrew A. White, Commander for the U.S. Army Garrison at Natick Soldier Systems Center. 
Begley, a Bellingham resident for 32 years, will speak about his four-year career in the Navy. He served from 1974-1978 on the USS Navasota at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and also aboard the USS Saginaw. He was an engineman 2nd class petty officer. During a Mediterranean cruise in 1978 he was on duty in Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Morocco. 
“My time in the Navy was an experience I will never forget,’’ he said. “The people I served with, the places we went, the things we did together will always have a special place in my heart.’’
Begley and his wife Cheryl have two children (Melissa and Daniel).
Elzroth joined the Navy after graduating from high school in 1960. His boot camp was in Waukegan, Ill. with additional training in Virginia Beach before he was assigned to duty in San Francisco on board the USS Neches, a fleet tanker that carried 6½ million gallons of oil and aviation jet fuel.
“We had aircraft carriers like the USS America, the USS Enterprise and the USS Constellation sail alongside and take on fuel while we were at sea,’’ Elzroth said. “They would take the whole load from us because they carried enough fuel for all the escort ships that accompanied them.’’
While aboard the Neches, Elzroth participated in cruises to Japan, the Phillipines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam. 
“Events that stand out while serving in the Navy were the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963,’’ Elzroth noted. “I was in Japan at the time and the entire military was put on high alert.’’
Elzroth and his wife Barbara, a Bellingham native, recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. 
Lieutenant Colonel White was commissioned as an Infantry Officer after graduation from the United States Military Academy in 2001. After completion of the Infantry Officer Basic Course and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he served as a rifle platoon leader and headquarters company executive officer.
In March 2004, LTC White reported to Camp Greaves, Republic of Korea, and subsequently served in Habbaniyah, Iraq (2004-2005). He served as a company executive officer, battalion battle captain, and, finally, the battalion logistics (S4) officer. After re-deployment from Iraq to Fort Carson, Colo., he attended the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning. LTC White then reported in June 2006 to Fort Carson. He served as the battalion operations officer (S3) during combat operations in Zafaraniyah, southeast Baghdad, Iraq (2006-2007).  
Other combat tours include Afghanistan, and stateside assignments were at Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Hood, Tex., Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Fort Wainwright, Ak. On July 1, 2021, LTC White took command at Natick Soldier Systems Center. 
LTC White earned a BS in History from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an MS in Administration from Central Michigan University. His awards and decorations include: Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters; Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Parachutist  Badge; Ranger Tab; and Sapper Tab. 
LTC White and his wife, formerly Stacey Anne Beskow, have four children, Abigail (11), Nathanael (9), Micaiah (7) and Isabell (3).
Retired schoolteacher Lori Fafard and fourth grade students from the Memorial Middle School will present thank you posters to veterans at the ceremony for their service.
The program will continue with the Oliver Brothers singing “The Possible Dream,’’ a song whose lyrics are adapted from “The Impossible Dream.’’ It honors all veterans and their vision of a possible dream, and is available for purchase online with all net proceeds going to the local VFW Post and other veterans organizations and funds. If interested, see the brothers after the ceremony for the website link.
Brief remarks by State Representative Mike Soter will follow and Rev. David Mullen, the pastor at St. Brendan Parish and a Navy veteran, will offer the closing prayer. The Young Marines then will carry the colors outdoors to the flagpole where Rick Marcoux, the Chaplain of the Bellingham, Franklin and Medway Fire Departments, will deliver a prayer at a wreath presentation at the flagpole.
The program will conclude with a moment of silence for deceased veterans and the playing of Taps. Light refreshments will be served.
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