Parade And Ceremony Marks Belmont’s Memorial Day, 2022 [Photos]

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The weather cooperated – brilliant sunshine, low humidity, upper 70s – as Belmont returned to he public celebration of Memorial Day.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the numbers along the route and at the commemoration were down from 2019 as the ceremony booted up for the first time in three years with the parade that started in Cushing Square and traveled to Belmont Cemetery adjacent the Grove Street playground led by a contingency of veterans and guests, girl and boy scouts, all serenaded by the Belmont High School marching band.

At the cemetery, the solemn tribute for the fallen who died in defense of the country commenced with Bob Upton, Belmont’s Veteran’s Service Agent who is retiring at the end of the week, who spoke of those who were honored on this holiday.

“Let’s appreciate our time together here in this beautiful place within this wonderful community of Belmont,” said Upton. “We are here today because of the sacrifices made by so many Belmont families. We are here because of the willingness of someone we love or maybe someone we many not even know who laid down their life for our freedom. We are here to honor them.”

Nor should the day be best known as the unofficial start of summer, suggested the chair of the Belmont Select Board.

“Memorial Day has become a day of picnics, barbecues, parades a day to spend time with family and friends as we look forward to their carefree days of summer,” said Mark Paolillo. “But it must remain a day to pause from our very busy lives to reflect, honor and thank those individuals that have given all to defend our freedoms. We must remember them.”

Speaking on his tenure as the vets rep in town, Upton spoke of some of his most personal rewarding efforts which may have flown under the radar such as creating a low-key coffee hour for veterans at the Beech Street Center, coordinating a trip for an aging WWII vet to Washington DC on an Honor Flight or negotiating what can seem to be an overwhelming amount of paperwork to allow vets survivors to receive the benefits they rightfully have earned.

“Some of my most proudest moments here in Belmont has been working with our veterans and their family members and the stories I heard at events and activities such as today,” said Upton.

Finally Upton read the names of Belmont’s fallen from the Civil War to the War on Terror, taps was played and the parade reassembled to the Veterans Memorial at Clay Pit Pond for a brief commemoration.

Belmont’s Veterans Agent Bob Upton Retiring After Memorial Day

Photo: Bob Upton at the 2019 Memorial Day parade

Robert Upton, who tirelessly advocated for Belmont’s veterans and put his heart and soul in events honoring those who served and died for their country, will be retiring as the town’s Veteran’s Services Officer on June 3, days after the Memorial Day parade and commemoration.

The announcement was made by Wesley Chin at Monday’s Board of Health meeting.

Upton did not return a call for comment.

”There are no words to say what Bob does and how much he means to the town,” said Donna David, chair of the board on Monday. “It will be a huge pair of shoes for someone to fill, that’s for sure.”

Upton will come before the Select Board next week to ask for permission to hold the town’s annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony, this year on Monday, May 30.

Upton was appointed as the town’s veterans agent in January 2015. Soon after, Upton established regular meetings at the Beech Street Center to allow veterans an outlet to voice their concerns and to catch up on the myriad of services and benefits available to them and their families.

Upton is likely best known throughout town for his involvement in the planning and hosting Belmont’s observances of Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, which involves countless hours of coordinating with town officials and numerous groups to help recognize current and past residents who served their country.

He has also initiated the annual Purple Heart Day Ceremony held in August, headed Belmont’s commemoration of the Armistice Day Centennial and worked with Belmont Eagle Scout Oliver Leeb to create a database to easily locate the 1,800 military service dead in the town’s two cemeteries.

A Peabody resident, Upton – who has been a Realtor since the 1980s – has been involved in supporting veterans for well over a quarter century.

The job will remain a 26 hours a week, part-time position with benefits, said Chin.

“We know from past experience that with part time positions, it’s really hard to find good people,” he said.

Belmont To Commemorate Veterans Day With Breakfast, Clay Pit Pond Events

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Belmont will be honoring all veterans of the US armed services at three events commemorating Veterans Day.

Wednesday Nov. 10

Belmont’s 7th annual Veterans Breakfast at 10 a.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St., sponsored by East Cambridge Savings Bank. Free to all Veterans.

As a thank you to our local Veterans, the Belmont Council on Aging hosts its seventh annual Veterans’ Breakfast, free for Veterans, spouses, and families. Enjoy a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns provided by our friend from the Diner at 11 North Beacon in Watertown. Belmont Hill School’s B-Flats will provide us with entertainment. A special thank you to East Cambridge Savings for once again sponsoring this special event. Please call 617-993-2976 to register.

Thursday, Nov. 11

At 10 a.m., there will be a short Veterans Dedication Ceremony held at the Open Door Baptist Church on Pleasant Street with Pastor Bob Butler presenting.

At noon, a Veteran’s Day gathering will take place at the Belmont Veteran’s Memorial at Clay Pit Pond. Bob Upton, Belmont’s Veterans Agent, will make some brief remarks. There is no Belmont schools Veterans Day Program this year and the VFW does not have an event scheduled.

Retiring Old Glory: Scout, Veterans Agent Initiate Flag Ceremony in Belmont

Photo: Flag retiring ceremony in Belmont.

The mound of more than 2,000 flags of the United States  – much which were planted over the graves of veterans and war dead, others large and once flying stately over homes and offices – all worn and threadbare, some mere remnants of Old Glory, laid piled neatly near the edge of Belmont’s Clay Pit Pond.

While disrespectful to allow the Star Spangle Banner to lay on the ground, it was instead a show of great honor and reverence that these flags were brought to the site near the Belmont High School parking lot on Saturday morning, Oct. 14.

The banners would soon be retired in the only manner prescribed by law: burned.

Before Saturday, Belmont residents were required to be resourceful to retire a flag properly; some would perform the act themselves or store the weathered stars and stripes away in a corner, forgotten.

But through the effort of a local scout seeking a project to perform and the town’s Veterans’ Agent, Belmont now has its own town-wide flag retirement ceremony, one that they intend will be held annually.

“We needed something like this in Belmont for a while,” said Veterans Agent Bob Upton.

Boy Scout Robert Mountain,  a 17-year-old who attends the Chapel Hill – Chauncy Hall School in Waltham, was seeking out a unique community project to satisfy his Eagle Scout service requirement. He contacted Upton who informed Mountain the town had recently set up boxes in two locations around town to collect old flags. 

“Immediately I thought it would be perfect that we retire them here in town,” said the Orchard Street resident.

Mountain worked with Upton to secure material from local businesses – Hillside Gardens, Winters Hardware and Roche Bros. in Lowell – such as the two barrels used to contain the fires and cinder blocks as foundations.

“It’s a big process to retire 2,000 flags,” said Mountain, who is expecting his Eagle Scout designation before June of next year.

Before the event began, Selectmen Chair Jim Williams discovered one of the largest flags was a hand stitched 49-star banner with the 50th star sewn on when Hawai’i joined the US nearly 60 years ago. Williams – a Vietnam-era Navy veteran – rescued the flag and was going to have it dry cleaned an then displayed. 

The ceremony included readings from Mountain and three fellow scouts – Boy Scouts Will Thomas and Alden Barnes and Cub Scout Owen Thomas – before an audience that included Gold Star mother Pamela Curtis, Williams, Belmont VFW Post Commander Kip Gaudet and numerous veterans and residents. “Taps” was played, and the first flag placed into the flames. 

“I couldn’t be prouder than to have the Boy Scouts lead this ceremony,” said Upton.