Saluting service and sacrifice at the Veterans Day Parade
Side by side they marched down Main Street Saturday morning, dressed in red, white and blue and proudly waving the American flags.
Some rode unicycles while juggling, others played patriotic songs on instruments and some simply smiled and waved from inside a car or atop a float.
However, everyone was there for one reason: to honor United States veterans.
Businesses, groups and organizations from all over participated in the first Veterans Day Parade held by the town in six years. Some were even joining up until an hour before the parade started, according to Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside.
The parade was sponsored by the town and the Minutemen and Militia Companies.
Finally seeing the different pieces of the parade come together, Whiteside said it was a relief and awesome.
“Relief because we got wonderful weather and awesome because so many people joined up and signed up and are lining the streets,” she said.
Sharon Lindsey and Caleb Potter were two of those attendees lining the streets.
Following the parade, Lindsey said, “Watching the soldiers walk by made me tear up. [I’m] very grateful for everything they do.”
“I feel it's a reminder to all of us that there are people out there who have sacrificed their time, and their lives in particular, for our safety in this country,” she added. “It's worth the hour that it takes to celebrate.”
In addition to celebrating veterans, it was an opportunity for the community to see one another and spend the day together.
Cayden Brandolini, 8, and his sister Charlotte, 6, each held a flag as they cheered on the Veterans Day Parade.
Cayden said his favorite part was the playing of the “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”
Charlotte said hers was seeing their grandfather, Wareham Fire Captain James Brandolini, carrying a golden ax.
“We call him firetruck papaw,” she said.
Renee Tamburrini brought Jessica Watson, 8, and Alana Littlefield, 8, to the parade.
The two girls said their favorite part of the parade was the Tigers Athletics cheerleading and football walkers because they got to see some of their friends.
However, they agreed the best part of the day was celebrating veterans as both had service members in their families.
Tamburrini said, “We appreciate everything the service members do for us and we're grateful.”
Many of those participating in the parade or watching it did so knowing about the sacrifices soldiers have made for the country, but for many of the younger kids, parents treated the day as a learning opportunity.
Rochelle Simmons attended the parade with her daughter Leilana Daggett in order to teach her about the value in “appreciating people that gave up things for us.”
Following the parade, the community gathered at Center Park to hear the church bells ring eleven times three times at exactly 11 a.m.
Speeches were given by Master of Ceremonies Julio Roderick, Chair Whiteside, Keynote Speaker Captain Allen Metcalfe Jr. of Mass Maritime Academy, Congressman William Keating, Rep. Susan Williams-Gifford and Sen. Marc Pacheco
In addition, there was an invocation given by VFW Captain Erwin “Tootsie” Russell, a benediction by Chaplain Catherine Gianneli of the Onset Fire Department as well as essay readings by VFW Patriot Pen Essay Winner Lexi Francis and VFW Voice of Democracy Winner Stoney Ferry.
In his Keynote Address, Metcalfe discussed what the definition of a veteran is.
Though there are some differing interpretations of the word, he said to him, a veteran is “someone who raises their right hand and repeats the same words that have been said for over 200 years. Words that include bare true faith and allegiance and support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies — foreign and domestic.”
Metcalfe added, “These are the words that separate America from everyone else. Veterans support and defend an idea, a belief, a guiding light for all others.”
He shared his own experience in the military, participating in Desert Storm as a naval flight officer.
When Metcalfe returned home, he met a Vietnam veteran who had come to welcome the soldiers home because no one had welcomed him and his fellow servicemen home.
“His simple presence taught me what a real veteran is,” Metcalfe said. “Someone who will put this country and its citizens before themselves, no matter the cost and would do it again if ever asked.”
He said, “So please, if you see someone like this, give them a nod, a smile, a handshake, a simple welcome home — that's all we want, to finally come home.”
He added, “We lose on average 22 veterans every day to suicide. You never know what a kind word or gesture could mean.”
Following his address, Whiteside read the Veterans Day Proclamation and Roderick recognized this year’s grand marshals: John Fearing, a Navy Seabee who fought in WWII and the Korean War, and Lew Ferretti, a Marine who fought in Korea.
Congressman Keating also presented Wareham with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for bringing back the annual parade.
Keating said, “When we honor our veterans, we honor ourselves.”
In her comments, Rep. Williams-Gifford emphasized that veterans are defending the country 365 days a year.
She said, “Veterans Day is not just a day of celebration and remembrance. It is a day of action. It is a day when we must recommit ourselves to the well being of veterans and their families.”
Sen. Pacheco said the freedoms granted to all citizens by the Constitution “would not have the power they have if it were not for the men and women who have come forth to defend those freedoms in our democracy when they have been called upon.”
He said he salutes and thanks those who have sacrificed everything for those freedoms.
However, he said, “We should not only be thanking you on Veterans Day, we should be thanking you every time we use one of those freedoms that we believe in and that we care so much about here in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.”
(Editor’s Note: Photo captions will continue to be updated over the next few days.)