Northampton parade salutes veterans under bright blue skies

  • Rose McCarthy, 2, watches the Veterans Day parade in Northampton on her father John McCarthy’s shoulders Friday morning. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Phyllis Gamache holds a flag during the Veterans Day parade and ceremonies in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sterling Williams with Soldier On, holds a wreath someone gave him during the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jewel, 10, at left, and her brother Kyle, 8, during the Veterans Day parade and ceremonies in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rose McCarthy, 2, watches the veterans day parade in Northampton on her father’s shoulders, John McCarthy, Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Shirley Slahetka of Northampton hands out flags to Dolly and Jim O'Donnell at the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Mimitz hands Linda Desmond, the director of the Northampton Senior Center, a lollypop during the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jack Miller leads the Florence VFW Post 8006 Color Guard in the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ruth Doherty leads the Northampton High School marching band in the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sterling Williams with Soldier On salutes during the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Fran Whalen and Nicholas Grimaldi speak at the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Thomas Burgess, Larry Didier and Tom Pease, of the Florence VFW post 8006 Color Guard, during the Veterans Day parade in Northampton Friday morning. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • One of several wreaths handed out to veterans on Veterans Day in Northampton by representatives of Riverside Industries in Easthampton.  —Amanda Levenson

For the Gazette
Published: 11/11/2016 4:14:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A smile spread across veteran David Poulin’s face as he was approached by a paradegoer Friday afternoon at Pulaski Park, handed a decorated wreath bearing the words, “I Remember You,” and then thanked for his service.

Poulin, of Easthampton was touched by the gesture.

“It’s very cool, the idea that they took the time to make these for the veterans,” Poulin said of the many wreaths representatives from Riverside Industries in Easthampton made and presented to veterans during Veterans Day events in Northampton.

The honoring of veterans began with the annual parade that kicked off at 11 a.m. from Lampron Park, and traveled along Main Street before ending with a cermony at Pulaski Park. Families, shop owners and former servicemen lined the streets and cheered as the marchers made their way through downtown.

“It’s a reminder for all civilians of the history of the country, of what people have fought and died for,” said Robert Johnston, a Northampton native who spent three years in the U.S. Army and four years in the National Guard. “They should be remembered for their sacrifices.”

Johnston said he is drawn to the parade because he wants to show his support for all his fellow veterans. It’s also an opportunity for him to reconnect with people he has not seen for awhile.

“It’s like a social hour,” he said.

Northampton resident Amy Earle also pointed out how the parade serves as a bit of a reunion. She said she enjoys the small-town feel of the parade. Earle enthusiastically watched the parade and waited for her son, a Cub Scout, to march by.

“We feel that it’s really important for kids to remember the people who fought for this country, and to teach them what this is all about,” Earle said.

Members of the VFW Post 8006 Color Guard and Auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans, 10th Mass Volunteers, Polish Heritage Committee, and more made up the sea of marchers. Mayor David Narkewicz walked with them as they moved to the music of the Northampton High School Band.

Children waved miniature flags as they passed by, and a few took their parents’ cell phones and captured photos.

Uncle Sam was even driving around on what looked like a Segway.

“It just feels like a camaraderie. The community really comes together, and it feels different than any other parade around here,” said Jules Bruno, who owns The Village Salon on Main Street and steps outside annually to watch the parade.

Bruno said it’s nice to see so many familiar faces, and this year she was glad to see the parade welcomed by a sunny day. It was followed by a windy ceremony at Pulaski Park.

A Boy Scout from Troop 109 started the ceremony and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Brian Joyce then sang the national anthem and the crowd joined in.

After Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B’nai Israel delivered an invocation, Brad LeVay took the microphone as president of the Veterans Council of Northampton. LeVay explained to the crowd that he does not need a special day to remember those who fought alongside him.

“As a veteran, I can never forget the faces of the young men I served with many years ago,” LeVay said.

Mayor David Narkewicz and Steve Connor, director of Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services, also spoke of the measures Northampton and other area towns are taking to care for local veterans and the threat of homelessness for veterans.

“Northampton has committed itself to ending veteran homelessness in the city,” Narkewicz said.

The crowd responded with cheers when Narkewicz discussed how the city’s Veterans Services office helps more veterans per capita than any other community in Massachusetts.

The focus of the ceremony then shifted to six veterans who served in six different conflicts: Francis Whalen who fought in World War II, Brad Levay who fought in the Korean War, Billy Lynch who served in Vietnam, Francis Robles who served in Afghanistan, Kathy Silva who fought in Operation Desert Storm, and Scott McAllister who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They all took turns at the podium addressing the crowd about their experiences.

They each said their purpose in speaking was to honor fellow veterans, whether they were in the audience, missing in action, or a fallen soldier.

As the Northampton High School band played a musical selection, people from Riverside Industries in Easthampton walked around handing out wreaths to veterans to show their gratitude.


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