Hundreds turn out in Northampton to remember veterans who preserved country’s freedoms

Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Veterans Council of Northampton President Brad LeVay says he does not need a special day for remembering his fellow veterans.

LeVay, a Marine veteran who fought in the Korean War, says he will always feel the loss of those who gave the country its freedoms.

“It was the veteran, not the preacher, who gave freedom of religion,” LeVay said during a Memorial Day commemoration at the Park Street Cemetery on Monday. “It was the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”

Hundreds turned out Monday for the city’s Memorial Day events, starting with the annual parade through Florence center during which spectators as well as marchers donned their finest patriotic garb.

Many families held American flags, and Kathleen McGovern of Northampton even tucked a small flag into the collar of her Goldendoodle, Kaylie. McGovern said she has been coming to the parade for around 40 years, primarily to honor the veterans. “They sure deserve it,” she said.

At the same time, she added, she enjoys cheering on the small children who are part of the march.

Girl Scout troops tossed candy in all directions, sending youngsters lunging from the sidewalks to gather what they could. Girls marching with the Northampton School of Dance occasionally leaped out from behind their banner and did cartwheels in the street.

As the parade passed, its soundtrack changed from the solemn beats of the Connecticut River Valley Field Music to the peppy sounds of the Expandable Brass Band.

Also marching was a group from Soldier On, a nonprofit in Leeds dedicated to ending homelessness for veterans. Behind them was the “Sully Van,” the organization’s handicapped-accessible van, named for late Soldier On resident Eugene Sullivan Jr.

The parade ended at the entrance to the cemetery, where Mayor David J. Narkewicz opened the ceremonies by reading a Memorial Day proclamation.

The keynote speaker was Army Lt. Col. Deborah Foley, a Florence resident since 1999. She spoke of her 25-year career, including her return from deployment with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, calling these the “invisible wounds” of soldiers.

Foley told of seeking treatment at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds, and credited her family for their support.

“Remember, not all soldiers, sailors or Marines come back with visible wounds,” Foley said.

Also during the ceremony, Steven James Connor, director of the Central Hampshire Veterans Services District, announced that the remains of U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Archambeault, a Northampton resident who was a prisoner of war/missing in action in North Korea in 1950, had been identified in April. Archambeault’s nephew Steven Archambeault of Florence briefly addressed the crowd to express his gratitude that his uncle will soon be buried.

“It makes me feel so beautiful that this is going to happen,” Archambeault said, becoming visibly emotional.

Foley and Connor read the names of Northampton veterans who have died within the past year. Connor noted that his father, James Connor, and brother, Daniel Connor, were among them.

“I’m sure many of you recognize those names,” Connor added. “Let’s remember them the whole year long.”