One hundred and one.
That is the number of Belmont men who have died in the nation’s wars since the First World War that began 100 years ago this August.
“They were sons, brothers and fathers. They had dreams and aspirations but their lives were cut short and their families saddened,” said retired US Army Col. and Belmont resident Leonid Kondratiuk at Belmont’s Memorial Day ceremony held at Belmont Cemetery.
“Several are buried here in this cemetery,” said Kondratiuk, who is director of the Massachusetts National Guard Military Museum in Worcester which keeps the military records of all from the Bay State who served the country.
“None wanted to die but were willing to die in defense of the nation,” he said on Monday, May 26.
This year’s ceremony kicked off with the annual parade this year graced with a pretty Miss Bay State, Siobhan O’Keefe, four Harleys lead by veteran and Town Meeting mainstay Joe White, the Selectmen along with state Sen. Will Brownsberger, contingencies of the Police and Fire departments, a slew of scouts, the combined marching band of the High and Middle schools, a US Marine color guard and the big trucks from the DPW.
Leading the way was a small group of resident veterans with their own color guard, with some of the older “soldiers” given a ride from Cushing Square to Grove Street.
Along the route, families gathered as children cheered the groups, covering their ears when the fire trucks blew their horns. Many older men and women either removed their hats or saluted when Old Glory passed by.
At the cemetery, the names of the 101 residents who died in defense of the country were read, taps was played and a rifle salute was given.
“We often live our daily lives is blissful ignorance of the sacrifices that are the foundation of our freedoms,” said Andy Rojas, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen.
“Today, to affirm that we never forget, we honor all and thank you for all you have given,” Rojas said.
The day’s first keynote speaker, US Air Force Col. Thomas J. Killeen, chief of the Airspace Mission Electronics System Center at Hanscom AFB in Bedford, said that while Memorial Day is for remembering those who died in past wars, the nation continues to lose military personnel in Afghanistan and in missions around the world.
“We are also proud to the families that sacrificed so much. Long after the battlefield guns are silenced, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent, spouses will still be without their life partners and parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters who died way too early,” Killeen said.
“Let’s not forget the focus what Memorial Day means. It’s the day to remember.”