Photo: Veterans greet each other on Memorial Day, Belmont 2015.
On a muggy, overcast morning, Belmont residents came out to participate and watch the town’s annual parade and remembrance service on Memorial Day 2015.
One of the biggest crowds in recent memory sent the long-line of veterans, color guards, public safety officers, scouts, the combined Belmont high and middle school marching band and sporting teams such as Belmont Hockey and the Arlington-Belmont state champion crew off with cheers from Cushing Square down the Trapelo/Belmont corridor, onto Grove Street before stopping at Belmont Cemetery.
Speaking before the assembled audience, the Reverend Paul Minor, co-rector with his wife, Cheryl, of Belmont’s All Saints Church, said the day is not just for those who sacrificed their lives defending the country but also “those who mourn the loss of loved ones throughout our history.”
“We pray that inspired by their witness and service and sacrifice of blood that we would move forward in our own way to draw closer to our national vision of compassion, of mercy, of justice, of the rule of law,” said Minor, the sole full-time chaplain in the Massachusetts Army National Guard where he has achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Sami Baghdady, chair of the Board of Selectmen, said that while the Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, of backyard barbecues and escaping to the Cape, it is a day to remember the more than 120 from Belmont, from the Civil War to the war in Iraq, who died in combat or on active duty, including three remaining missing in action.
“To Belmont, Memorial Day is much more than just another holiday,” as the enthusiasm of residents coming out to greet the veterans or pay their respect at the service “that we have not forgotten the true meaning and purpose” of the day. He noted earlier this month, the town approved funding to a committee to refurbish the town’s three main veterans monuments.
Baghdady also praised the decade long service of the former town’s veterans agent, John Maguranis, and introduced the current agent, Bob Upton, for coordinating the day’s events.
The day’s featured speaker, retired US Army Major General Robert Catalanotti – who was base commander of Camp Taji in Iraq a decade ago – asked residents that after the barbecues and all the other long weekend events are over, “resolve to continue the meaning of this holiday with your loved ones.”
“Later, when the sunsets, after the smell of hot dogs and burgers fade away, I ask you to stop and reflect on this day, and the soldiers who paid the price that we will never be able to match,” he said.
“Most of all, today is the day to tell the stories of the soldiers on the battlefields of decades past. So soldiers of yesterday and today are never forgotten by the children of tomorrow,” said Catalanotti.