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Belchertown observance stresses need to learn from history

Cub Scouts and VFW members stand at attention with flags and banners during the Veteran’s Day procession in Belchertown  Sunday.
Stefan Ward-Wheten

Cub Scouts and VFW members stand at attention with flags and banners during the Veteran’s Day procession in Belchertown Sunday. Stefan Ward-Wheten Purchase photo reprints »

Belchertown resident Michael Ross, a veteran of over three decades of service in the Army and the Air Force, stressed the importance of learning from history. He noted that the American military tradition encompassed lessons and values learned “over 200 years of fighting for freedom, from Bunker Hill to Afghanistan.”

Ross, who received several commendations for his service in both Gulf Wars and continues to work with the Department of Defense, urged the audience to remember the sacrifices of the past while still honoring and giving back to present and future service members “who may have to pay the ultimate price.”

Events began promptly at 9:30 Sunday morning on the Town Common on a day in which mild weather and sunny skies made it easy to be outside to mark the holiday. A short procession featuring members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8428 and the American Legion concluded in front of the town’s war memorial, a prelude to the main event, an assembly at the high school that included performances from the elementary school band and remarks from several public officials.

“This is the one day of the year when Americans have a chance to honor those veterans who are still alive and with us,” said retired Maj. Keith Poulin, moderator of the town’s observances. “Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to do this, so thank you all for participating.”

Poulin and post Chaplain Edward Gallerani led the procession on the common, which finished with a performance of the military bugle melody taps. Music was a large part of the program at Belchertown High, where students from Chestnut Hill Community School performed several numbers as a choir and as an orchestra on stage.

The orchestra played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America The Beautiful,” and a chorus of elementary and middle school students then provided vocal accompaniment to the presentation of the ceremonial flags and banners, one for each branch of the armed forces, with marching songs such as “The Army Goes Marching Along.”

Local charitable efforts were also a feature of Sunday’s activities. Cub Scout Pack 507, in cooperation with St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown, undertook a food drive on the town common to coincide with the morning’s procession.

“Fortunately, our local food collection post is doing pretty well, so we’re sending all the proceeds from today’s donations to the USO for use in veterans’ aid,” said Gloria Fortunado, who oversaw the temporary center on the common.

The annual event evoked fond memories from many participants.

“This has been going on as long as I can remember,” said Vernon Wheeler, the quartermaster and flag bearer for VFW Post 8428, who expressed his appreciation for people who turned out. “It’s always great to see everyone come out and show their support like this.”

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