Wareham celebrates Veterans Day

Nov 11, 2020

The parking lot between Town Hall and the Multi-Service Center was transformed into a grand display of military and first responder vehicles from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 11, as part of Wareham’s Veterans Day celebration.

Over the course of three hours, the static display included vehicles from the Otis Air National Guard Base, the Wareham Fire Department, the Wareham Police Department and some private collectors’ vehicles as well.

One fire department truck flew a flag over the display in honor of Veterans Day, and members of the Massachusetts National Guard accompanied the vehicles from the Otis base. Matt Stanton, the director of Wareham’s JROTC program and a teacher at the high school, was also present at the outdoor event.

Skip and Jean Sarnelli — the chairman of the Wareham Veterans Council and a member of the council, respectively — worked hard to plan both the static vehicle display and the virtual parade and celebration, which was aired by WCTV starting at 10 a.m. on Nov. 11.

Jean Sarnelli said most years the Wareham Veterans Council puts on a well-attended Veterans Day parade. The council had been planning the 2020 parade when covid-19 emerged and put a stop to large gatherings, she said. But despite the disruption, she said the council still wanted to put something together in honor of the day.

“I’m the daughter of a World War II veteran and then my husband went to Vietnam, so it’s a day that I think our nation should honor for people that have sacrificed so much,” Jean Sarnelli said. “Not only ones that made the ultimate sacrifice, but serving in the military … it was a lifetime commitment, they’re still suffering the effects of the war.”

Julio Roderick, the Grand Marshal of the Veterans Day virtual parade, was in attendance at the static display of military vehicles, along with the Sarnellis. Roderick said he was honored to be chosen for the role.

“Hopefully as veterans, we set examples for younger people to join and serve their country like we did,” Roderick said. “And we’ll keep trying to take care of the veterans we have.”

Jonathan Philbrook, who served in the Army from 1973-77, brought his World War II command car to the display. He said restoring military vehicles is a hobby of his and he spent about 10 years restoring the car, which he purchased in bad shape in 2005. He said he’d only just finished it in August and was excited to bring it to the display. 

“Skip Sarnelli did a very good job with this,” Philbrook said.

Skip Sarnelli said everyone from police officers to local veterans seemed happy with the event as they stopped in to say hello.

While the outdoor vehicle display was smaller than Wareham’s past parades, several people drove past the static display and honked their horns in support or drove around the parking lot and shouted their thanks to the veterans in attendance. Others explored the display of vehicles up close.

The virtual parade that Bob White also helped organize was about an hour long and was made up of images and voices from Veterans Day parades in previous years. Anyone who is interested can watch the virtual parade on WCTV’s YouTube channel. The virtual celebration, also about an hour long, was hosted by local veteran Paul Barnett.

“This year due to covid restrictions, you couldn’t come to the ceremony,” Barnett said as he kicked off the celebration. “So we decided to bring the ceremony to you. This year, we gather to celebrate the many, many years of blood sweat and tears of our country's most valuable and essential workers. Yes, the valiant veterans of our great states.”

The virtual celebration is also posted on YouTube for anyone who wants to watch.

Social distancing was maintained and those who visited the static vehicle display were required to wear masks.