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.”