152nd Memorial Day Ceremony Scheduled for May 21
By KEN HAMWEY,
Bellingham’s 152nd Memorial Day ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 21, starting with a parade that will begin at 1 p.m. at the Memorial School.
Both the parade and the ceremony at the Town Common will focus on the holiday’s theme — the 50th anniversary of U.S. troops withdrawing from Vietnam.
“Fifty years later, Vietnam veterans are still feeling the effects of their service there,’’ said Jim Hastings, Chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee. “They’ve lost friends they served with in Vietnam and friends who served, came home and died of agent orange.’’
At the Bulletin deadline, Hastings was still working on lining up a keynote speaker.
The parade route will start at the Memorial School and continue along Route 126 to Bellingham center. Hastings is requesting that parade participants refrain from parking at the school’s lot. “It will help if people are dropped off so there’ll be room for parade participants to line up and form the marching order,’’ he said.
Those marching in the parade include the Army and Marine Color Guards, the Bellingham High School Band, the Old Colony Bagpipe Band, the Douglas High School Band, the Silver Dolphin Drill Team of Groton, Conn., the Bellingham Historical Commission, Bellingham’s American Youth Football players and cheerleaders, and Milford veterans.
Floats in the parade will represent the Bellingham Memorial and Veterans Day Committee, the Bellingham DPW, Vietnam veterans of Rhode Island, Milford veterans, the Bellingham Women of Today, the Bellingham Senior Center, the Bellingham VFW and its Auxiliary. Other floats include the Crawford Vietnam Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Solider, the Huey Gun Ship and military vehicles provided by the Bellingham Historical Commission.
A new event for the parade will be multiple Fire Department trucks (surrounding towns and Rhode Island) displaying patriotic themes. They will be judged before the parade starts for “the most patriotic vehicle.’’ The winner will be announced during the ceremony. Also, a dozen classic cars will be included in the parade.
The ceremony at the common will begin at 2 p.m. with a wreath-laying to honor Bellingham servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. A prayer will be offered at the War Memorial near the Route 140 entrance.
An invocation will start the program at the gazebo followed by the National Anthem (sung by Joe and Robbie Oliver), and the Pledge of Allegiance. A reading of the Gettysburg Address will follow the pledge.
Hastings will deliver opening remarks and State Representative Mike Soter will offer his thoughts on the meaning of the holiday.
“Memorial Day is a time to pause and honor the memory of our servicemen and women for protecting us,’’ Hastings said. “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.’’
The ceremony will continue with Nick Mobilia reading the names of deceased Bellingham veterans who passed away during the last year. A new twist has been added when the names of Bellingham residents who died in service to their country are read. The 190-year-old bell at the nearby First Baptist Church will be rung after each name is read.
The bell was cast by George Holbrook who learned bell founding (melting metal into a mold) and clock-making as an apprentice to Paul Revere. Holbrook, who was born in 1767 in Wrentham, maintained a long friendship with Revere until his death.
“It’s an honor for our church to participate in the ceremony, said Baron Rodrigues, Pastor of the First Baptist Church. “The bell was repaired and restored last year. Its majestic sound will memorialize all those Bellingham veterans who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. It’s a privilege for our church to be a part of this meaningful ceremony.’’
Closing ceremonies will include the reading of names by Sam Cowell 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 Old Colony Bagpipe Band will perform Amazing Grace followed by a rifle volley, Taps and the closing prayer.
The Memorial and Veterans Day Committee strongly encourages those attending the parade to remain for the ceremony at the Town Common.
“The purpose of the holiday is to honor the memory of all servicemen and women who gave their lives while serving their country and their community,’’ Hastings emphasized. “It’s a solemn time to remember their sacrifices.’’