There have been 1.1 million U.S. military personnel killed in all American wars, including the ongoing Global War on Terror. Residents of Whitman and Hanson joined the nation in honoring those who gave that last full measure of devotion during parades and ceremonies Monday, May 27.
Whitman Girl Scouts carried posters bearing photos of that community’s war dead in the parade and, in Hanson, state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, honored one of Hanson’s fallen during post-parade ceremonies at Fern Hill Cemetery.
“I’m standing here in what is known as the Unreturned Lot, which commemorates the lives of the 26 or 27 — we’re not exactly sure — Hanson men who were killed during the Civil War,” Cutler said, noting the 1.1 million who have fallen in all U.S. wars, such a huge number it almost becomes a statistic. “It’s hard to fathom that kind of loss. Memorial Day is an opportunity to narrow the gap between tragedy and statistic.”
Cutler did so by focusing on the loss of Tech. Sgt. Elmer R. Hammond, killed in action at the age of 21, in a B-17 on his 40th mission in the skies over WWII Europe.
He joined the U.S. Army in 1943 after the Navy and Marine Corps had turned him away because he was not an American citizen, Cutler related. Born in Nova Scotia in 1923, Hammond moved to Hanson with his family when he was 6. The Hanson American Legion Post bears his name.
“Tech. Sgt. Hammond was the first WWII soldier casualty from Hanson [and] he was laid to rest right here in Fern Hill Cemetery,” Cutler said. At the time of Elmer Hammond’s death, his younger brothers Sam and Gilbert were 9 and 7 years old.
“Sam later recalled that, ‘Elmer was a great guy who was brave, heroic and a guy I’d like to have as my back-up,’” Cutler said. “Sgt. Hammond is just one of the many heroes our town, our Commonwealth, and our nation have lost in war time. Today, I urge you to keep the memories of these men and women alive.”
Whitman’s Memorial Day Observances kicked off with morning wreath laying ceremonies in celebration of the 151st year honoring those who have honored their country at the cost of their lives.
Selectman Dan Salvucci addressed parade goers, citing one of his favorite local events honoring Memorial Day.
“We remember: an event at Duval School where the kids commit to memory their relatives who have passed away and have given their all to serve to keep our country safe,” he said.
He thanked all who carried flags to honor those who passed. He shared a small narrative about honoring his late father in- law, a veteran, by carrying a flag in the parade something that he keeps close to his heart.
State Rep. Alyson Sullivan, R-Abington, thanked Pack 22 whose members had placed countless flags in honor of those fallen but not forgotten around multiple locations in Whitman.
She spoke of the sacred motivations behind celebrating Memorial Day and honoring those who have given their lives and also those who have returned as veterans some who suffer in silence with PSTD.
“Each and every war from the birth of our nation to our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has come at great cost,” Sullivan said. “As we do each year on this special day of reflection we gather, we pause we pray, we remember the heroes who served and made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy these treasured gifts. … Today it’s our duty to and the duty of our grateful nation to remember and honor those who served and sacrificed.”
Three of Pack 22 scouts wrapped up the Town Hall services with a reading of prayer, moving on to lay wreaths in the WW I Memorial Arch, Colebrook Cemetery, the Town Park flag pole, Civil War Soldiers Monument and Veterans Monument all Wars -among the early morning honors several other memorials were paid tribute. The warm weather brought crowds in droves as they lined the South Avenue in front of the Town Hall and Post office.
“I really appreciate all the community support,” Hanson Veterans Agent Timothy White said during ceremonies at Indian Head School before the town’s parade stepped off. “It’s very much appreciated.”
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes handed a folded American flag to Scouts who raised it on the school’s flagpole to full-staff, before lowering it to half-staff for the observance before Hanson Middle School student Noah Roberts read Gov. Charlie Baker’s Memorial Day Proclamation.
Janet Hamilton, a U.S. Sanitary Commission re-enactor with the U.S. 22nd Vols., out of Rockland, was escorted by Selectman Jim Hickey in placing a wreath at the war memorial at the school. Hamilton, of Taunton, was dressed in Civil War-era mourning dress and veil to represent all widows of war dead. She was escorted by Selectmen Kenny Mitchell and Wes Blauss for a wreath laying at the town’s Civil War monument on Town Hall Green and by Selectmen Laura FitzGerald-Kemmet and Matt Dyer at the Unreturned Memorial at Fern Hill Cemetery.
The Mass. 22nd Vols. Fired a ceremonial rifle salute at each wreath-laying ceremony and members of the Hanson Middle School band played “Taps.”
“Let peace prevail among all the nations,” the Rev. Peter Smith of Hanson Congregational Church said in his prayer opening the day’s events.
Roberts recited the Gettysburg Address at Fern Hill and the Rev. Michael Hobson of St. Joseph the Worker Church closed with a prayer for blessings on the fallen and for their families’ peace of heart and mind.