Memorial Day In Belmont, 2018: In Words and Photos

Photo: Larry and Janet MacDonald salute the flag as it passes by on Memorial Day 2018 in Belmont on Monday, May 28.

It was a drizzling and cool Memorial Day as Belmont prepared to honor residents who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms and protect the citizens of the country.

Despite the weather and the long holiday weekend that signals the unofficial start of summer, residents came out to watch their veteran neighbors, the High and Middle schools marching band,  trucks, the police and fire department, town and state officials and seemingly every kid between four and eight left in town march from Cushing Square, down Trapelo Road and Belmont Street to Grove Street and on to the Belmont Cemetery for the annual service to remember the honored dead.

Speaking for the town, Selectmen Chair Adam Dash noted that the world will mark in November the centennial of the armistice ending the First World War, the “War to End All Wars.” After facing industrial war with poison gas and mechanized killing with airplanes, submarines, tanks and machine guns, it was felt at the time “that no future men and women would have to live through it again,” Dash recalled.

But rather than finalizing conflict, World War I “was the precursor to an even greater conflict a generation later, as well as the numerous other conflicts around the globe over the past 100 years.”

But while peoples have fought peoples since time began, “[w]e have shown the ability to follow the biblical command of Isaiah to turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks … We have turned airplanes into civilian modes of travel. We have used submarines to scientifically explore the ocean depths. While we have waged wars, we have also used diplomacy to prevent wars.”

“It is up to us, who are living right now, to create that utopia dreamt of a century ago by soldiers trapped in trenches year upon year. Sustained peace would be the ultimate gift to those soldiers of yore who made the ultimate sacrifice. We are up to the task if we simply want to make it happen.”

“We remember that they rest in peace so we can live in peace,” said Dash.

The day’s keynote speaker, Belmont Board of Library Trustee Elaine Alligood, was one of the few women honored to be the main speaker at the service. She spoke how over a quarter century working as a Veterans Administration Librarian, veterans “have taught me way more than I can ever claim to have done for them. Each veteran – more than 21 million in the US including 2 million female vets – “has a unique journey back to their world, often compelling, instructive, and complicated.”

Alligood highlighted two veterans she got to know on their journeys. One was convinced he was going to die from an intestinal condition he didn’t have. She drew him out of his shell by finding material in the library related to his Ph.D. in Russian Literature. The vet soon began telling her a story that as an intelligence officer during the invasion of Grenada in 1983, he believed his faulty analysis led to the death of 19 soldiers, “each death weighed on him even now, decades later.”  

“He simply could not forgive himself even though he’d done his job. [He] taught me about the almost unendurable burden of a soldier’s commitment to his brothers in arms; the awful and powerful affliction he couldn’t shake at their loss,” said Alligood.

The other veteran was in recovery and on probation, “endur[ing] much, and lost much, during combat and once home, he couldn’t stop remembering and re-living it. His experiences fueled his unfocused rage, and his addiction. All utterly de-railing his life plans, destroying his relationships, landing him in a world of consequences.”  

Alligood saw that the vet was diligently trying to re-build his life, repair his relationships, and make amends to his fractured family so took him in a VA work-therapy program. He showed up in her dusty basement library, “enthusiastically re-organized and re-shelved our old, pre-digital print journal collection without a complaint.” When he asked Alligood to write a letter to his probation officer documenting the work he was doing, “I realized then, the depth of his dedication to his road back. [He]. knew it was long and tedious, yet central to his journey, and he was not stopping.”

“[He] taught me about forgiveness and endurance, acceptance, the power of commitment and hope; no matter how long or bumpy the road back home might be, he was committed to the journey,” said Alligood. 

“Here’s to all our Veterans, all you’ve sacrificed, all you’ve given and done, for all of us, all across America. Thank you for your service, and Godspeed on your journey,” she said.

Damp Conditions Did Not Deter Memorial Day Parade, Ceremony

Photo: At Belmont Cemetary, Memorial Day

The forecast of steady rain held off long enough for Belmont to remember the residents who gave their lives for the country as residents came out to march and attend the annual Memorial Day Parade and Commemoration Ceremony at Belmont Cemetary on Monday, May 30.

Despite the forecast, a good number of residents gather along Trapelo Road, Belmont and Grove streets to see and cheer on veterans, color guards, representatives from the police and fire departments, the mixed marching bands from Belmont High and Chenery Middle schools, boy and girl scouts and lots of kids riding on a flatbed truck who traveled the 1.1 miles from Cushing Square to the corner of Grove Street and Huron Avenue.

At the cemetery, the commemoration of the day was celebrated by a proclaimation from Bay State Gov. Baker read by State Sen. Will Brownsberger and a speech by Belmont Board of Selectmen Chair Jim Williams, a Viet-nam Era Navy veteran.

“… [W]e honor our dead, not as fallen heros instead as warriors who sacrificed all defending our precious freedoms which are truely universal. timeless and inspired, as Emerson so poetically declared, “that waft the breath of grace divine.”

The day’s main speaker was Col. Mike Callanan, USMC (ret.), a Belmont native (Belmont High class of 1988) who served as the leader of a combat engineer battalion which made several deployments to the Middle East.

Callanan honored all those Belmont residents who took up arms as volunteers or those drafted into the military and died fighting for the country since the Civil War, serving in all branches of the armed services. He asked that every resident speak to a child about the meaning of Memorial Day, especially since “they are just one generation” away from possibly serving themselves. 

“I ask that each of you rededicate your efforts to focus current conversations not on what divides us but what actually unities us. And that is we are all Americans,” he said.

Noting the noise of children playing in the Grove Street Playground across from the cemetary, Callanan said “that’s what freedom sounds like. That’s worth defending. That’s what we will loss if brave men and women don’t continue to stand up and defend it.”

“Believe me, there are a lot of bad people out there that want to take that very sound away from us at every opportunity.” 

Rain or Shine: Belmont’s Memorial Day Parade Monday @ 11AM


While the weather forecast is calling for a bit of rain just after noon, the prospects of Monday showers will not stop this year’s Belmont Memorial Day Parade.

After the annual event was postponed last year until June due to expected heavy rain (which did not show up) and the subsequent observance was sparsely attended, the Board of Selectmen decided future parades would go on as scheduled despite any calls for showers. 

This year, the annual parade from Cushing Square to Belmont Cemetary on Grove Street The parade steps off at 11 a.m. will begin in front of Starbucks near the corner of Common Street and Trapelo Road.

Marching bands from Belmont High and Chenery Middle school, color guards and members from the Belmont Police and Fire departments, veteran motorcyclist, marchers from local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops and veterans will all take part 

All veterans and current military personnel are invited and welcome to join the other vets at the head of the parade.

Lining the route – down Trapelo Road before making a left onto Grove Street and continuing to the Belmont Cemetery – will be families and residents cheering the marchers.

At the cemetery, a wreath laying ceremony will take place, speeches will be read, flowers laid at the graves of veterans, the names of Belmont citizens who died for this country will be honored, “Taps” played and a final salute will be given.

Subdued, Poignant Memorial Ceremony at Belmont Cemetery

Photo: Veterans at Saturday’s Memorial Day ceremony.

Jim Williams has direct experience of the importance of Memorial Day.

His grandmother on his father’s side of the family was a “Gold Star” mother; Williams’ uncle, Frankie, was killed in 1943 in Algeria and buried in Tunisia.

And while he never met his uncle – and a recent attempt to visit his grave was considered too dangerous for Americans to try – Williams said for his family and him personally, Memorial Day “is a somber and sobering day … when you ask yourself, ‘what makes people do this?'” 

A Navy veteran who serviced in Vietnam, Williams joined his fellow selectmen, State Sen. Will Brownsberger, town officials, veterans and residents to commemorate Belmont citizens who sacrificed their lives for the country, many lying at rest in Belmont Cemetary where the observance took place.

Because the ceremony was rescheduled from the actual holiday due to predicted stormy weather, the ceremony was a far more intimate and subdued without the hundreds of residents and participants in the town-wide parade. But there was a good number of veterans from all conflicts, including WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who turned out along with residents, many who brought their children, to observe the ceremony. 

And the poignancy of the day remained intact. On “this glorious, incredibly Saturday morning” Mark Paolillo, chair of the selectmen, recalled the millions of American who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country and “[i]t is a debt we can never repay, we must always honor their memory.”

“They must never be forgotten … and we must always support the love ones that they left behind no matter the burden we must bear,” he said.

Noting 130 Belmont residents have died in combat and active duty since the Civil War, Selectmen Vice Chair Sami Baghdady, a “quite shocking and staggering number” from such a small community. The day is not just to never forget those who died in service to their country. 

“For those … in active duty or those [veterans] that are fortunate enough to be around still, we thank you for all your service for our community and our nation,” he said. 

Master of ceremony Bob Upton, the town’s Veterans Service Officer, read the names of those residents who died serving their country from the Civil War to the Afghan conflict.

Williams, who said his service was in part due to his family history, – his father and uncles fought in WWII – “it didn’t make sense not to do something if I could.” 

“I think that everyone in the service serves for that reason, to take their place and to do their duty,” he said.

Williams recalled the words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on why a person would do so for the United States, that “it’s about the idea of freedom, and this is the best nation.”

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Rescheduled Memorial Day Ceremony Saturday, June 18, at 10 AM

Photo: Memorial Day redux.

Belmont is holding the Memorial Day celebration that was originally cancelled due to inclement weather. The event will take place at Belmont Cemetery this Saturday, June 18, at 10 a.m.

For more information, contact Bob Upton in the veterans’ services office at 617-993-2725 or by e-mail at

Rescheduled Memorial Day Ceremony Set For Sat. June 18

Photo: Belmont Cemetery. 

Belmont will be holding a Memorial Ceremony to make-up for the parade and ceremony cancelled on Memorial Day due to inclement weather.

The rescheduled event will take place at the Belmont Cemetery off Grove Street on Saturday, June 18 at 10 a.m. Members of the community are invited to attend. 

Should weather be an issue on June 18, the event will be moved to the Belmont Public Library on Concord Avenue. Follow the Town of Belmont website ( and official social media accounts for updates on the event. 

For more information, contact Veteran Service Officer Bob Upton at 617-993-2725 or by email to 

Memorial Day Friday: The Price of Freedom, Paid Forward

Photo: WWII Veteran Jim Boozier at Friday’s ceremony.

The students flanked the walkway at the entrance of Belmont High School where just a week previous several strode with their dates to the buses taking them to this year’s prom.

The young freshmen, sophomores, and juniors – the newly-liberated seniors were spending a day in community service – were in marked contrast to the aging men who now filed between them towards the white flagpost at the foot of Clay Pit Pond on the warm May morning.

As the school’s marching band played “Anchors Away,” the assembled students gave a steady applause to the men who marched before them, who once, just a few years older than the present students, put on their country’s uniform to defend the nation.

The yearly observance of Memorial Day at Belmont schools – at the High School and the Butler and Winn Brook this year – allows the generation that served and fought to be a testament to students of sacrifice for a greater good. 

The dozen or so veterans – who served in all branches of the armed services from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan – stood under the flag pole as speeches were made and lessons taught.

“The bitter lesson of history is that freedom is never guaranteed,” said Belmont High Principal Dan Richards.

“It is only those great and noble men and women who have been our guaranteers of our freedoms who we have come here to honor and those who are not able to join us, we owe you more than any ceremony can recognize,” said Richards.

For the veterans, the day is special for the recognition of their service as well as the opportunity to be a living history lesson.

“Twice a year, the veterans who come to these programs, we feel like rock stars when we leave for the day,” said Roger “Kip” Gaudet, Jr., commander of the Waverley VFW Post 1272 on Trapelo Road.

While it is an emotional time for the honorees to participate in the annual observations, “but it means more to us to have you people come out and support what we’ve done in the past,” said Gaudet.

“We are the Old Guards of the freedoms that you have today. And you people standing out here, are the guards of our future freedoms,” he said. 

“Freedom is not free. There is a price to be paid for it,” said Gaudet. 

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Breaking: Belmont Memorial Day Parade, Cemetery Ceremony Cancelled

Photo: Last year’s parade.

Due to a forecast of a heavy morning and afternoon rainstorm on Monday, May 30, the Belmont Memorial Day Parade and the ceremony at Belmont Cemetery on Grove Street have been cancelled. 

A reverse 911 call from the Belmont Police Department to town resident at 6:41 p.m. Sunday, May 31, made the announcement of the cancellation. 

Belmont Observes Memorial Day With School Events Friday, Parade Monday

Photo: At Belmont Cemetary

Parades and remembrances mark Memorial Day in Belmont.

Belmont Public Schools will observe the holiday Friday, May 27 with a morning of exercises at three schools.

  • 8 a.m.: Breakfast with veterans at Belmont High School 
  • 8:30 a.m.: A program at the flagpole in front of the high school’s entrance.
  • 9:15 a.m.: Burbank Elementary program.
  • 10 a.m.: Winn Brook Elementary program.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Luncheon at the VFW Post, 310 Trapelo Rd., sponsored by the vets. 

On Monday, May 30, the town honors the holiday with its annual parade from Cushing Square to Belmont Cemetary on Grove Street. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. 

Marching bands from Belmont High and Chenery Middle school, color guards and members from the Belmont Police and Fire departments, veteran motorcyclist, marchers from local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops and veterans will all take part 

All veterans and current military personnel are invited and welcome to join the other vets at the head of the parade.

Lining the route – up Trapelo Road before making a left at Grove Street and continuing to the Belmont Cemetery – will be families and residents cheering the marchers.

At the cemetery, a wreath laying ceremony will take place, speeches will be read, flowers laid at the graves of veterans, the names of Belmont citizens who died for this country will be honored, “Taps” played and a final salute will be given.

Crowds View Parade, Solemn Remembrance on Belmont’s Memorial Day

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.