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Deerfield plans Memorial Day race, parade and other events

Memorial Day committee members Betty Hollingsworth and John Cycz, here standing in front of Deerfield town offices in 2012, hold two of the signs made to honor Deerfield veterans who died in battle. The signs were  placed above some street signs in town.

Memorial Day committee members Betty Hollingsworth and John Cycz, here standing in front of Deerfield town offices in 2012, hold two of the signs made to honor Deerfield veterans who died in battle. The signs were placed above some street signs in town.

— Over the past few months, 24 blue signs hanging above the green street names in Deerfield have become reminders to passersby and drivers of the sacrifice many local service members made when they served their country.

The signs recognizing the service of 24 local people who sacrificed their lives in World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War was the work of the town Memorial Day Committee and the townspeople. The signs were placed above the street signs where the soldiers grew up and engraved with the town seal, the servicemen’s rank, branch of service, name, the notation “KIA” for “killed in action,” the date of death and the country and war where he was killed.

After announcing the project this past summer, townspeople donated $4,950 to pay for the $150 signs.

When the Memorial Day Committee — led by a subcommittee of members Doug Tierney, Betty Hollingsworth and John Cycz — began the project, they had no money for this project. All the committee had in its budget was $1,750 to maintain the American flags displayed from town utility poles for patriotic holidays. However, in a few short weeks after announcing the project in July at a Board of Selectmen meeting, private donations flooded in.

“The money kept coming in,” said Tierney. “We’re extremely proud of our community who embraced the project and funded it privately.” The Memorial Day Committee spent most of the money on materials for the signs. A remaining $1,000 will be used for future maintenance or replacement of the signs or for a new sign. The private cash flow was a feat for the town committee. It originally believed it needed $1,800 for 18 signs. But the number grew to at least $3,600 for 24 signs.

And the project has grown further over the past 10 months. The Memorial Day Committee is hoping to compile the history of the fallen soldiers in one database on the town’s website for anyone to access. The committee is still working out the costs and logistics of this idea. It originally planned to publish a book, but decided against it considering the prevalence of technology.

And Deerfield Academy, the independent private prep school in old Deerfield, volunteered to pay for red, white and blue carnations to be placed around the fallen veterans’ sign posts. The flowers would be placed on the posts on Friday, May 24 in time for the Memorial Day celebration. The stories of those 24 veterans will be heard at this year’s Memorial Day event on May 27. There will be two parallel events this year — one on the Deerfield Academy campus and one on the South Deerfield town common.

Along with the stories, mid-week, Frontier Regional School and Deerfield Academy students accompanied by local veterans will place American flags in town cemeteries.

The Deerfield students will honor fallen veterans in the Laurel Hill cemetery, while Frontier students would place flags on the gravestones of seven South Deerfield cemeteries, including Brookside, St. Stanislaus and Sugarloaf Street. The Deerfield Academy ceremony is scheduled at 3 p.m. Frontier’s is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

By the end of the day, the students would have put up 700 or more flags throughout the town.

On Saturday, May 25, runners will run the second annual Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club and VFW Post 3295 5K or 10K races.

On Memorial Day, the annual South Deerfield parade will take off from the Frontier Regional School at 8:20 a.m.

This year, the traditional fly-over jets won’t be cruising over the Deerfield event, however. The Memorial Day fly-overs that many states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York rely on to commemorate veterans, have been cut due to federal budget cuts.

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