HALIFAX– With inclement weather predicted, followed by torrential downpours on Memorial Day morning, traditional parades and outdoor ceremonies were canceled by town officials, a decision that was very hard to make, according to Selectman Kim Roy.
“The veterans we’re honoring often suffered through war. We can get a little wet,” she said the night before the event, but ultimately safety concerns won out. Officials were able to save parts of the ceremony by moving it indoors, to the Great Hall inside Town Hall. The observance was small, abbreviated and over in less than 45 minutes.
Town Moderator John Bruno served as Master of Ceremonies, and opened and closed the event with a brief speech.
An invocation, and later a benediction was given by Father Kwan Lee, of Our Lady of the Lake Church.
Girl Scouts sang the national anthem, followed by essay readings by elementary school students from first grade through sixth grade on what Memorial Day means to them.
They had each won a contest for their grade among their classmates. The students were Wiley Makepeace, from first grade; Madison O’Connor, second grade; Madison Hogan, third grade; Joseph Noonan fourth grade; James Keegan, fifth grade; and Katherine Ng, sixth grade.
Each of the students was introduced by a member of the Board of Selectmen– Chairman Troy Garron, Selectman Kim Roy or Selectman Thomas Millias.
Later in the ceremony, Assistant Veteran’s Agent Steven Littlefield gave a poignant speech, the text of which is printed here, which touched on what Memorial Day means to him – certainly not, as he points out, a weekend for shopping.
Although the Memorial Day parade is an exciting event for the community, and many expressed their disappointment with the unfortunate weather, the purpose of Memorial Day was not forgotten in Halifax on Monday, and perhaps was even more vivid with the backdrop of falling rain.
Memorial Day thoughts by Assistant Veteran’s Agent Steven Littlefield:
“I want to begin by touching upon the significance of what we talk about when we talk about Memorial Day. Over 25,000 service members were killed during the Revolutionary War, over half a million during the Civil War, 116,000 during WWI, 400,000 during WWII, 54,000 during the Korean War, 58,000 during Vietnam, and to date, over 6,500 between Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not even an all-inclusive list of the conflicts the United States has been part of, and it adds up to well over one million men and women who have died in defense of our freedom.
Today is the one day every year we set aside to remember this. The American flag is at half-mast in the morning to pay tribute, and at noon, the flag is raised to full height by the living, lifting the memories of those gone but not forgotten in our promise to continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
For some, today has morphed into something much different than what it was originally intended to be. After the Civil War, this day was originally called Decoration Day. As the name implies, it was a day for the nation to decorate the graves of the brave members of our armed services who paid the ultimate sacrifice for something bigger than themselves. However, as we fast-forward almost 150 years, we sometimes need to remind ourselves what today is really about. Everywhere we look, we’re flooded with new car ads, mattress sales, and even grocery store deals all marketing Memorial Day weekend as a time when you can come out and save some money; not really what Memorial Day was intended for.
As a Veteran’s agent for the town, one of the requirements is to be a Veteran. I have a lot of friends who are currently in the military and ones that I have deployed with in the past. I also have some friends that really don’t know much about the military or the history about our heroes. On one hand, there are people who have never been taught the true meaning of today and everything it stands for. For them, it’s a long weekend and trips to the beach with no real significance behind it. On the other hand, there are people who will focus all of their energy in doing everything they can to honor those who died; to make sure that they are remembered and taken care of. They won’t even contemplate having a good time themselves. These are often people that have been very personally affected by the loss of a service member. Many have long lasting feelings of guilt because they are here with us, and their comrades are not. They take this holiday to heart at the very core of what it means.
While everyone celebrates in their own way, none of them necessarily being “right” or “wrong,” perhaps somewhere in the middle of these two groups of people is a good place to start. First and foremost, it is imperative that we take the time to at least have some personal reflection on what today is about; to think about the over one million service members who had to make that sacrifice, and equally as important, for each and every one of their Gold Star families who received that letter in the mail, call on the phone, or knock at the door informing them that their loved ones were gone and that they would have to carry on without them.
Friday, I was lucky enough to go to the dedication of the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial in Boston. There were 218 names on that wall of men and women from Massachusetts who have died defending this country since September 11th. It was a very moving and powerful ceremony. Through all the speeches, one of the consistencies was that no one wants their loved ones to be forgotten. There is certainly no shortage of small gestures we can do to honor our heroes and to keep their memories alive, and the sum of these small gestures can end up equaling something big. We can come out to this very cemetery and help place flags at the graves of our fallen as was the original intent of this day, or we can visit the loved one of someone who was lost in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan to give comfort. Perhaps we can decorate our homes in tribute, maybe we march in a parade commemorating these fallen heroes, or simply watch from the streets or sit in the audience realizing that we are lucky to live in such a great country where men and women would sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
But what is the greater good? What is it that these heroes sacrificed their own lives for?
They sacrificed their lives in the moment for their buddies that they were on the battlefield with, the men and women on their left and right.
They made that sacrifice for this great country and little hometowns like this one. They sacrificed for its people and everything that it stands for– life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Taking all of this into consideration, we should absolutely enjoy ourselves this weekend. We should enjoy living the life that we are able to live because of their sacrifices.
We should have cookouts, relax with friends and family, play horseshoes and have a cocktail, but we should do all this while remembering why it is that we are able to do it. So let’s enjoy today while reflecting on what it took to allow us to enjoy it.
Let’s teach our kids about Memorial Day, what it means, and the heroes that have gone before us.This way, when they’re our age, the legends will live on, the parades will still march, and the stories will remain told, because all it takes is one generation to forego these traditions and they will dwindle away into a distant memory. Today, lets honor our heroes, enjoy ourselves, and remember that freedom is not free.”
The Halifax Congregational Church will have its Annual Plant Sale and Luncheon Saturday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m,.rain or shine. The church is located at 503 Plymouth St., in Halifax on Rte. 106.
There will be a variety of annuals and perennials to choose from to give color and beauty to your garden or planting beds. We will also sell various gardening items from our garden shop and raffle tickets for a chance to win a Tiffany style dragonfly lamp.
Our luncheon starts at 11 a.m. and will include Portuguese Kale soup, a big crowd pleasure which sells out fast! Please be sure to bring your hearty appetite.
We look forward to seeing you at the sale and assisting you with your plant selections.