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SHIRLEY — American Legion Post 183 Chaplain Marcel Gionet offered two prayers during Memorial Day ceremonies at Whiteley Park. The first was a prayer of thanks that opened the commemorative event. The second was a Memorial Day prayer traditionally said for the honored dead when flowers are strewn on their graves.

Gionet’s opening prayer gave thanks to God for “the opportunities that abide in our land” and remembered “our departed comrades” who are buried at home or “beyond the seas.”

“We honor them by cherishing the ideals they fought for,” he said.

Post Commander Michael Flood had started off the speeches, setting the tone for the ceremony. He said Memorial Day is about honor, freedom and remembrance, he said, not talking politics.

“I’m not going to defend or oppose (the war in Iraq), but I will support it,” he said.

Memorial Day is a “hallowed day” to honor “our loved ones who died defending their country and the oath they took,” he said, including all who have died in the nation’s wars since 1775.

“It should be above politics Period,” he said.

Quoting from a letter home that he said was written by a soldier in Iraq, Jack Robinson, Flood said, “God must be creating an elite unit in Heaven” for “all the best” who died. He urged people to not forget that sentiment and to visit veterans’ graves, lay a wreath at a cemetery and visit returning veterans in the hospitals. Those acts show that we, as Americans, don’t forget the sacrifices that service men and women make for us all.

“It’s about people like the 22 names on the monument here,” he said.

The Memorial Prayer Gionet read at the end of the ceremony thanks God for “this hallowed soil,” and pledges to serve this land with the same devotion.

The flowers spread on the graves symbolize a spirit that will “endure to the end of time,” he said.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Band, of Still River, which has been participating in Shirley’s patriotic parades for more than two decades, marched in the Memorial Day parade and played two pieces at Whiteley Park, one of which was the National Anthem. Then, stationed at opposite sides of the park, Matthew Dion, of Pepperell, and Clancy Wolf of Shirley, played “Taps” on two bugles. Cory Farrar, of Shirley, dressed in a highland kilt, also played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.