ROCKLAND — Like most everything else since March 13, the Tri-Town Veterans Day observance was different this year.
The annual parade honoring Abington, Rockland and Whitman veterans was canceled over the summer, and replaced on Wednesday, Nov. 11 by a memorial ceremony, broadcast on Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV, outside Veterans Memorial Field at Rockland High School.
Participants included Veterans Agent for Rockland and Hanson Tim White, who acted as master of ceremonies; Air Force Col. Joseph Morrissey a Rockland High graduate; and members of the veterans organizations from Rockland, Whitman and Abington.
“It was not an easy decision for us to make not to have a parade, but under the circumstances, we all felt that it was the proper thing to do for safety and health reasons,” White said.
After an opening prayer was offered by Navy Chaplain Lt. Kristy Coburn.
“When the need was greatest, these brave men and women stepped forward to defend our freedom and, for that, we are eternally grateful,” she said. “Help us today, in the midst of the most challenging time in our history, to give proper honor and appreciation to those who served the cause of freedom.”
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the national anthem played before Col. Morrissey, assigned to the Hanscomb Air Force Base, delivered the keynote address in front of the memorial and stadium dedicated to Rockland’s veterans.
He recalled playing youth football at the stadium where he would gaze on the names engraved in the large bronze plaques, not old enough to understand what the meant.
“In the winter of 2017, while in Iraq, I was brought back to this stadium in my mind,” he said. “As I stood on the tarmac and watched flag-draped coffins that were being loaded on C-130s on their final flight home, those same goosebumps (he had felt during the national anthem at football games) returned to me.”
He noted there are memorial street signs throughout Rockland and the updated memorial outside the stadium was dedicated.
He said that kind of respect and town cohesion are why he and his wife chose the town as the place they wanted to live and raise their children.
The Rockland Police Honor Guard fired a ceremonial salute followed by “Taps” and a closing prayer by Lt. Coburn.