One of the largest crowds in years turned out on Monday for the Memorial Day exercises on the American Legion Lawn as sunny skies overhead helped set the tone for a solemn remembrance.
While attendance to the exercises was down for many decades, it has steadily grown over the last three years. However, this year was the largest turnout in recent history, as nearly the entire law was filled with older veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam alongside younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veterans Agent Nick Bua hosted the ceremony and, at the outset, called for a moment of silence for the late Stephen Perez, who was killed last month due to street violence in Boston after serving two tours as an Army sniper in the Middle East. The Perez family attended and seemed to appreciate the tear-filled moment.
Bua set the tone by reminding everyone what the day stands for.
“Revere will not forget those who have served and we will not forget those who died in the service of their country,” he said.
Mayor Dan Rizzo was the first to offer remarks during what was his first Memorial Day as leader of the City.
Rizzo recalled a speech given at Ft. Benning in 2006 by Lt. Col. Randolph White Jr.
“He said, ‘I, for one, will never apologize for being an American and don’t feel you have to,’” said Rizzo. “American blood and sacrifice is the indistinct part of the American equation.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said it was important to note the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam Conflict this year.
“As we reflect on the aftermath of that war and those men and women who served and died,” he said, “I want to make sure our Vietnam veterans and their families feel just as honored as our other veterans. I urge you to pay tribute to these brave souls for the positive impact they made on our country and our history.”
Guest speaker Brian Fisher, a Chief in the U.S. Coast Guard, spoke about going to Washington, D.C. a few years back and observing people at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “I saw one Vietnam veteran who was walking along the memorial and looking for a name,” said Fisher. “he stopped and saw the name and had a moment. He found the name and I noticed he had tears in his eyes. It made an impact on me. I think it’s important to remember on Memorial Day so many of those names of people who don’t have anyone to look for their name. This is their day; their day to be remembered for what they did.”
Also making comments was Army veteran Jamie Chambers – who has two other brothers, Jared and Jessie, that served overseas in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
“The worst day I had overseas was waking up and finding the flag at half staff and wondering if it was a friend of mine, or worse yet, my brother Jared,” said Chambers.
The ceremonies concluded with the annual reading of the City’s war dead, starting with the Revolutionary War and going all the way up to the current war in Afghanistan.
One change made this year was the ringing of a bell after the reading of each name.