The May 27 Memorial Day Observance held at Center School in Mattapoisett once again brought out a crowd. For decades, the Florence Eastman Post 280 of the American Legion has hosted this event. And while the local organization struggles to stay vital, the Legion has been supporting returning military personnel since 1919. It remains a place where veterans can come together sharing experiences while working together sponsoring programs that benefit all.
As the four young members of the New Bedford High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps completed the posting of the colors, Commander Michael Lamoureux rose to begin the program. His mood was solemn. He began by saying his comments would be different than in previous years.
“I’m sickened by what happened in Dorchester,” he began.
What Lamoureux was referring to was the recent desecration of military monuments in that city. He said that he wanted to thank everyone in Mattapoisett for supporting not only the event but the veterans.
“Thank you to everyone in the community,” he said. “You are a morale booster to anyone in the military. Thank you for being here.” He noted that it was the people in Mattapoisett and their commitment to those serving the country that made this day possible. In Dorchester, the city rededicated the impacted monuments, which have been thoroughly cleaned.
Chaplain Richard Langhoff gave a brief invocation remembering fallen service men and women around the globe as they performed their duties with “unselfish purpose.”
State Representative William Straus was invited to say a few words to the audience. He paused a moment reflecting on what Lamoureux had said adding, “We need to keep memories alive. We are responsible to think of those we did not know, but whose sacrifice for us gives us our freedom.” Continuing, he said, “They understand a wider purpose.” Straus asked the assembled to try and imagine all those serving the country, people we may never know and thank them.
Selectman Tyler Macallister also spoke sharing memories of his grandfathers, both having served in WWII with honor and both now at rest in the National Cemetery at Otis Air Force Base. He recalled visiting sites in Normandy and other locations where memorials rise out of the landscape to honor troops that freed the local people from the horror of Nazi occupation. He too implored all within hearing distance to remember, “It is our duty to keep their memory alive.”
Longtime Legion member and Tri-Town Veterans Agent First Sargent Barry Denham said he was inspired when he considered that, throughout the country in cities and towns, similar observances were taking place to honor those who had given their lives in service to the country.
Old Rochester Regional Junior High School student Sakurako Linh Huynh-Aoyama, with a voice that was clear, full, and confident, recited the Gettysburg Address.
The guest speaker for the event was Eric Dawicki, CEO of the Northeast Maritime Institute who is also a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve and a Merchant Marine.
After thanking everyone for their attendance, Dawicki became momentarily overcome with emotion as he remembered not only those in military service who made the ultimate sacrifice, but also the Merchant Marines whose pledge to defend and support the United States was equal to uniformed personnel.
“Please remember the non-uniformed mariners who bore true faith to their allegiance,” said Dawicki. He said he was touched by the responsibility to also acknowledge those patriots.
Music was an important part of the overall event, setting a tone of youthful exuberance and poignancy as the Old Hammondtown Elementary School band played America, Grand Old Flag, and the Star Spangled Banner under the direction of Cara Kinney.
After the retiring of the flags, the ceremony continued outside in the glorious sunshine that graced the afternoon. Boy Scouts, the Fire Department Color Guard, along with the New Bedford High School JROTC, and the townspeople marched to the library where flowers were laid at the at the plaque for Florence Eastman and the WWI and Civil War Monuments.
The parade continued on to the Town Wharf where flowers were placed in the outgoing tide to honor those who were lost at sea.
By Marilou Newell