NEWPORT CITY – This past weekend, Americans lowered their flags and attended ceremonies to honor the fallen men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Newport’s ceremony included a parade from School Street down Main Street to the Causeway and into Gardner Park for a brief program. Those participating in the parade and program included veterans, veterans’ service groups, members of the North Country JROTC Program, the Newport City Fire Department, the Newport Ambulance Service, politicians, the Newport City School and Derby Elementary School bands, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Chuck Newton, who drove his father’s antique tractor. Mark Hayes from Hayes Ford provided a car for Grand Marshal Harvey Robitaille and veterans who were unable to walk.
“A thousand battles of land and sea and air echo the glory of their valiant deeds,” said Master of Ceremonies Bill Graham of Newport City, of fallen veterans. “In the destinies of veterans, their souls go marching on. Because of them, our lives are free. Because of them our nation lives.”
Graham thanked the large crowd and participants who attended the parade and ceremony. Rev. Fred Barker performed the invocation and Pete Robert and Robitaille posted the MIA/POW Flag.
Newport City Mayor Paul Monette said he couldn’t help but think about how great it is to live in the United States, the home of the free and the land of the brave. This is especially true after seeing news stories about citizens of other countries who try to garner their freedom from their oppressive government.
“It makes me truly proud to live in this country and to honor all the brave men and women who sacrifice their lives so we can enjoy our freedom,” said Monette.
Monette closed with the poem “When I’m Gone,” written by Lyman Hancock.
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, said Col. Keith Wooster, from the North Country JROTC program. “It’s an enormous sacrifice that we as a nation have made over the last century,” said Wooster. “The price of our freedom, the price to maintain our liberties has exceeded 600,000 in the last 90 some odd years.”
Rep. Mike Marcotte of Coventry thanked all veterans on behalf of non-service members. He also thanked members of the JROTC and members of veterans’ service groups.
“I thank you veterans for the sacrifices that you made on our behalf,” said Marcotte, who was speaking to the veterans. “It’s a debt we will never be able to repay.”
“Memorial Day is a patriotic holiday,” said Sen. Robert Starr of North Troy. “I look at it as the same as the Fourth of July patriotic holiday. But, we are commemorating those who have given their lives to defend our country and what sacrifice they and their families have made so we can be here to be free.”
During his speech, Robitaille named the 40 service men and women from Vermont who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Operation Enduring Freedom since 2003.
“Let us remember, freedom is not free,” he said. “It never will be free. This is why we have our military and our veterans. To remember is to honor their sacrifice.”
For more than 220 years, the military protected Americans against the nation’s enemies. In that time, the world has changed and the armed forces have changed, but the valor, dignity and courage of the men and women in uniform remains the same, said Candace Huseman, who was representing the American Legion Auxiliary Newport Post #21.
“We can never repay that debt, however, we should take a moment and look into our souls too see what we are doing with the blood stained legacy they have left behind," said Huseman. “We must restore this nation to honor. Restore morality, values, love of country and love of God, for which they gave their lives.”
Huseman expressed displeasure to those who burn the flag and urged the crowd to write their legislators to tell them Vermonters don’t want the flag desecrated.
“This is one way we can pay tribute to those who fought and died under the American flag,” Huseman said.
Roy Ellam, commander of VFW Alfred Pepin Post#798, asked the attendees to join him in celebrating the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the nation. He also said no other country has done as much so that other countries can be free.
“With this being the first Memorial Day since the end of the Iraq war, we are once again reminded the full cost of war, from beginning to end,” said Ellam. “The Iraq war lasted over eight years and in that time we lost nearly 4,500 of the finest men and women our nation had to offer, suffering more casualties than any other nation fighting alongside us and the same grim facts also hold true when we speak of our efforts in Afghanistan.”
The lives were not lost in vain and each one contributed to the evaluation of America, as people know it today, Ellam said.
Eva Ann Tabor, president of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary Alfred Pepin Post #798, said celebrating the Memorial Day tradition dates back to 1866. It is also fulfilling a commitment to the people who answered the call of duty.
The biggest dedication is to the people who served on foreign soil, said Mark Perry, representing the VFW Men’s Auxiliary Alfred Pepin Post #798. Perry said the men and women who served know a life different from those who didn’t. Perry thanked everyone who attended.
“It’s only one day out of 365 days a year we get to stand here and dedicate our fallen soldiers,” Perry said.
The ceremony concluded with the Ladies Auxiliary from the American Legion and VFW throwing flowers into the Clyde River. The North Country JROTC provided the color guard. Benita Benson led the crowd in the National Anthem. American Legion Newport Post #21 Chaplin Gerry Gamache read the closing benediction. The day concluded with a luncheon at the American Legion.