They were respectfully quiet as the wreath was placed on a tripod before the American flag at Riverside Cemetery, a silent tribute to the fighting men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.
It was the final stop on the first leg of the Memorial Day parade, which began at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Park in West Townsend and traveled down Route 119 before turning onto Canal Street and then Dudley Road. Townspeople lined the streets, cheering and waving at the servicemen and women, including 10 VFW members, as they marched by.
Col. Andrew Nelson served as parade marshal, marching behind the small motorcade of those 10 veterans on a sunny and clear Sunday, May 25.
“I thought it was wonderful,” VFW Post Commander Norman Richard said. He was among the group that rode in the motorcade. He credited a recent infusion of new parade committee volunteers for the success, adding that he was happy new people wanted to get involved.
The parade began with a memorial reading on the VFW grounds, performed by Rev. Kevin Patterson of the First Baptist Church. After the invocation the processional began, military personnel leading the way, followed by the Townsend Military Band led by Betty Mae Tenney on clarinet.
In the midst of the processional was a firing squad from the American Legion Post 199, led by Arthur Borneman, toting rifles complete with bayonets. Also marching were state Rep. Robert Hargraves, town administrator Gregory Barnes, selectmen David Funaiole and Robert Plamondon, Legionnaires, and members of the Townsend Fire/EMS Department.
Behind the band were the town’s Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and the baton-twirling Holly’s Bunch, of Pepperell, a perennial participant in the event. Anchoring the parade was a small group of citizens, adults and youngsters, dressed as Minutemen.
The band played sprightly marches, including several recognizable military-themed songs, such as “Over There,” until the parade reached the bridge. The flag was flying at half-mast as Rev. Shawn Allen gave a reading to honor those military members lost at sea.
“They have no stones on which to carve their honored names,” he intoned.
After a moment of silence, the band played a mournful dirge and the firing squad paid homage to those who were denied the chance to be laid to rest at home, firing volleys into the air. Two trumpeters played a call-and-response duet version of “Taps,” the mournful last notes hanging in the absolute silence for several moments before the parade began again.
Rev. Allen read again at Riverside, thanking those who paid the ultimate price to defend their country and all it stood for, for protecting the freedoms of every United States citizen. As he finished, the wreath was placed in front of the flag pole. The band played another mournful tribute and the firing squad — the only members of the parade to remain on the street instead of entering the cemetery — paid their respects once more.
The parade temporarily disbanded and would reform within the hour at the Spaulding Memorial School to march down to the bridge on Main Street for another Navy memorial before traveling to Memorial Hall for a longer service, both performed by Rev. Allen.
“It was a great parade,” said town resident Carolyn Sellars. Her daughter, played in the band.
After the service, the parade traveled around the common to Hillside Cemetery for its final tribute before returning to the common for a benediction by Rev. Allen and readings of the Gettysburg Address and “In Flanders Field,” by the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, respectively.
The band took to the bandstand and closed out the festivities with a concert that lasted until late afternoon. They finished their performance with proud renditions of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”