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AYER — Honoring deceased veterans and the freedoms they protected were central themes of the American Legion’s annual Memorial Day observance.

“This is a sacred day to all veterans. None need be reminded of the reasons why this day is commemorated,” said keynote speaker and Navy veteran Frank Harmon. “But what about the general public and, more importantly, future generations? Far too often this nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms that all Americans enjoy. These freedoms were paid for with the lives of others.”

Harmon’s question was addressed by a procession of residents, veterans and youth groups in front of Town Hall the morning of May 26. He urged all to set an example for the nation’s youth by honoring deceased veterans on Memorial Day, either by taking part in public events, placing flags at veteran graves or marching in parades.

“Whether they are done individually or collectively, it’s the thought that counts,” he said. “With two wars underway, the public has no excuse not to remember.”

Harmon is a past commander of the local American Legion post. He will resume that position this summer.

Current Commander Stephen Wentzell spoke to what Memorial Day is all about.

“This day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” he said. “Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the men and women we lost in battle.”

For legionnaires, the speaking portion of the observance came after visits to local cemeteries and a procession from St. Mary’s Church to Town Hall.

The procession was led by the legion’s color guard, followed by members of the Ayer and Groton posts. Also therein were area veterans, the town’s four gold-star mothers and wives, the Fire Department, and several youth groups.

The speaking portion opened after the national anthem was sung by Air Force veteran Charles Jones. It was followed by “Amazing Grace,” played the Stewart Highlanders bagpipe band, and “Taps.” There was also a brief Navy observance at Pirone Park.

Also speaking before Town Hall were Selectman Pauline Conley, state Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton, and state Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton. They all spoke on the importance of giving thanks to veterans and supporting soldiers currently in the field.

Parade Grand Marshal Charles “Chuck” Horgan was also singled out for recognition by Wentzell, who said most residents probably simply knew him as moderator for the past 27 years.

However, Horgan is also a Navy veteran who joined during his junior year at Ayer High School in 1944. He served two years in the South Pacific.

It was with great pride Horgan received a diploma from Ayer High School in 1999, said Wentzell, which brought a large round of applause.

Horgan then spoke, briefly.

“Thank you,” he said. “God love you, and thanks again.”