WHITMAN — The weekend’s sunny weather stuck around long enough to shine on the community’s expression of gratitude for those servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for country and freedom.
Larger than usual crowds lining the streets and gathering at wreath-laying ceremonies was noticed — and deeply appreciated by veterans.
“Over the years we’ve had fewer and fewer people,” said Whitman-Abington Veteran’s Services Officer Tom McCarthy in thanking the spectators for attending. “It looks like we’ve reversed that this year, we’ve got a great crowd.”
“We had a great turn out today,” said VFW Commander Aaron Richardson after the parade. “It was excellent. Great day, great weather. I thought it was a nice touch, getting the Scouts involved in the prayers.”
McCarthy is a Marine Corps veteran and Richardson served in the Navy.
“This weekend isn’t all about barbecues and that sort of stuff,” McCarthy said. “If you see a veteran, thank him for his service. We’re all very proud of what we’ve done for all of you and hopefully, you won’t have to do what we’ve done in the past.”
McCarthy thanked Plymouth County DA Timothy Cruz; state Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman; Selectmen Dan Salvucci, Scott Lambiase and Brian Bezanson for participating in the parade. Police Chief Scott Benton, Deputy Chief Timothy Hanlon and Fire Chief Timothy Grenno also marched.
Diehl and Salvucci addressed the crowd during ceremonies at Town Hall.
“We gather to honor our fallen soldiers,” Diehl said. “Those who were so willing to give of themselves to defend their friends, their families, their community and their country.”
He asked for veterans and their families to raise their hands for a round of applause and thanks.
“We stand in the midst of patriots and the families and friends who have nobly served,” he said. “Since the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and our Revolutionary War begun … nearly one million men and women in the armed forces have sacrificed their lives while defending America in time of war.”
For those killed in the line of duty — such as Maj. Michael Donahue, who was killed in Afghanistan last fall — the best way to honor them is to remember them and care for their wounded brothers and sisters and to safeguard their families, Diehl said.
“Because they gave the ultimate sacrifice, we can be here today, walking our streets in freedom,” Salvucci said of those lost in war.
Boy Scouts Adrian White, Zachary White, Brady Pare, Brady Stokinger and Drew Sullivan offered prayers at ceremonies along the parade route, as did the Rev. Joshua Gray, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Whitman at the WWI Memorial Arch.
Gray’s prayer offered thanks “for our many freedoms, thanks for our peace here, thanks for prosperity and security. On this Memorial Day we give thanks for the men and women who gave of themselves in times of war to help to ensure the blessings that we now enjoy.”
WHRHS student Krista Anderson read the Gettysburg Address at Colebrook Cemetery ceremonies and Tom Long recited Gen. Logan’s Orders at the Civil War Monument wreath-laying.
W-H Regional High School’s Panther Marching Band and majorettes participated in the parade, with trumpet players Brian Simonelli and Samuel Androk played “Taps” and “Echo” respectively during wreath-laying ceremonies.
Color guards from the police and fire departments as well as the VFW and a combined American Legion/Sons of the American Legion color guard and firing squad also marched. The latter fired ceremonial salutes during wreath ceremonies.
See photos here.