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Major Travis Bowser (U.S. Marine Corps Ret.) will deliver the keynote address at Bellingham’s Memorial Day observation

153rd Memorial Day Ceremony Scheduled for May 19 

Bulletin Staff Writer

Bellingham’s 153rd Memorial Day ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 19, 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 — Bellingham’s fallen heroes and their Gold Star families. Gold Star families are those that have lost a family member in combat.

Denis Fraine, currently Bellingham’s interim Town Administrator, will serve as Grand Marshal. Fraine, who rose to the rank of captain in the Air Force.

“Having participated in Bellingham’s Memorial Day Parade for more than 30 years it’s a great honor to be asked to serve as Grand Marshal in the parade,’’ Fraine said. “Bellingham has a great tradition of recognizing its veterans. Memorial Day sets aside a moment to reflect on those young men and women from Bellingham and throughout the country who answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice. The day has tremendous meaning, and Bellingham’s observances always reflect the importance of the day.”  

 Other speakers include Major Travis Bowser (U.S. Marine Corps Ret.), who will deliver the keynote address; Paul Peterson (Air Force); and Thomas Berardi. Peterson and Berardi are Gold Star family members.

The parade route will start at the Memorial School and continue along Route 126 to Bellingham center. Jim Hastings, the chairman of the Memorial and Veterans Day Committee, 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 Bellingham Memorial School Band, the Blackstone-Millville Middle School Band, the Assabet Valley Marine Corps Junior ROTC, the Henry Knox Color Guard, State Police Pipe and Drum Band, military vehicles from the Plymouth area, the Old Colony Bagpipe Band, the Douglas High School Band, the Silver Dolphin Drill Team of Groton, Conn., the Colonial Navy Fife and Drum Corps of Fall River, the Bellingham Historical Commission, members of Bellingham’s Police and Fire Departments, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Bellingham High student-athletes, Thanks to Yanks, and Milford veterans. 

Floats in the parade will represent the Grand Marshal, Gold Star families, 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 Huey Gun Ship and military vehicles provided by the Bellingham Historical Commission. A dozen classic cars also will be in the parade.

The Gold Star families’ float will be accompanied by Bellingham High art department students. They constructed signs honoring Bellingham servicemen who were killed in action during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The signs replicate the Memorial Square signs throughout town.

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, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, will deliver opening remarks that will focus on the solemn nature 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 keynote speaker will also emphasize the significance of Memorial Day.

Major Bowser, originally from Lexington, Tenn., enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1995. He received three degrees when he graduated from the University of Houston in 1996 before he received his commission in the Marine Corps. As an officer, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; 3D Assault Amphibian Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., where he graduated with an MBA in 2012.  He was then assigned to Marine Corps Logistics Command and Marine Corps System Command, Albany, Ga. 

During his career, Major Bowser participated in exercises in the Baltic and in South Korea, and had combat deployments to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Khanjar, and to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.  The 47-year-old is currently the senior Marine instructor at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Program. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Medal, three Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals, five Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and three Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals.

The 190-year-old bell at the nearby First Baptist Church will toll after Nick Mobilia reads the names of Bellingham veterans who passed away during the last year. Bellingham High students will then read the names of all Bellingham residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country during through Vietnam. The Old Colony Bagpipe Band will perform, followed by a rifle volley, Taps and a closing prayer.

“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.’’

At the conclusion of ceremony, transportation to the Memorial School will be provided by Vendetti Bus Company, which will be located across from the Town Common.

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