Photo: Selectman Jim Williams at the rededication of the WWI monument.
The rain fell lightly across Belmont as the community came together to remember its dead on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and to rededicate a staid and beautiful monolith bearing the names of the nine residents who gave their lives in the struggle known as the “War to end all wars.”
After reading the names and telling the stories a few, Belmont Selectman Jim Williams read from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Voluntaries” of which the last lines are laid on the back of the Bethel white granite monument and dedicated on this day in 1923.
“So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, ‘Thou must,’
The youth whispers, ‘I can.”
The Navy veteran of the Vietnam war checked his emotions, which wavered a bit, before saying that “we are humbled today to honor the town citizens who gave their lives to stand up to tyranny,” as he looked up to those who died nearly a century ago in the First World War.
With honor guards from Belmont Police and Fire departments as well as the VFW, town and state dignitaries along with many veterans and family, Belmont came to the delta between Common Street and Royal Road and across from the commuter rail station, to view the renovated monument.
After falling on hard times in the past decades, the monument has been restored through the efforts of several private citizens lead by Retired Army Gen. Kevin Ryan, leader of the Belmont Veterans Memorial Committee.
Ryan pointed to residents such as Bill French, Sr., who sought to remember his friend who was killed in Vietnam, as pushing forward the idea of renovating Belmont’s two existing outdoor memorials – the WWI monument and the flag pole at Clay Pit Pond – with the creation of a third made up of small, low stones with plaques honoring veterans from the Civil War to the Iraq conflict at Clay Pit Pond. So far, money has been provided from the town’s Community Preservation Committee and private individuals; more will be needed to complete the work.
Saying that the misty, cool weather was “great infantry weather” – which a few of the older vets quietly disagreed – Ryan detailed the lives of those from Belmont who did not return from WWI. A barber, congregates from nearby St. Joseph’s, a pilot, a lifelong sailor, a husband; they lived varied lives within the same community, but all volunteered to take up the cause of liberty and country.
A prayer, then a military salute, before “Taps” played by Belmont High School musicians Eleanor Dash and Alex Park brought to an end the day’s remembrance.