AYER — Police Chief William Murray drove his blue Dodge Magnum with the police lights flashing as he led the Memorial Day parade down Park Street and up Main Street, stopping at Town Hall to honor the fallen heroes of the nation’s armed forces.
Murray was followed by the Marine Corps Color Guard, the American Legion Color Guard — featuring Selectman James Fay; members of American Legion posts 149, 55 and 183; students in the Ayer Middle-High School Massachusetts Army National Guard Leadership Program; state Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton; state Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton; selectmen Carolyn McCreary, Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan, Gary Luca and Richard Gilles; Gold Star mothers Zelda Moore and Mae Watts; Gold Star wife Sue-Ellen Kaliediwicz; various veterans; the Fire Department; Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts; Brownies and little-leaguers from the town.
Ayer’s legion Commander Frank Harmon greeted those in attendance at the Memorial Day ceremonies held May 24 with a few words.
“Comrades and fellow citizens, this day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” he said.
Harmon introduced the honored guests and invited Resor to speak.
Beginning with the history of the American soldiers who have lost their lives on the battlefield, Resor complimented the past and present members of the armed forces.
“Because of these patriots, we live comfortably,” she said. “Our soldiers have left their families, friends and lives so we don’t have to.”
Hargraves thanked those in attendance for showing their support for the nation’s departed soldiers.
“(The soldiers) are getting the message,” he said. “The military is there for us whether they are coming from the regular military or the National Guard.”
Board of Selectmen Chairman Carolyn McCreary opted to read the poem “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak” in lieu of giving a speech at Town Hall during the Memorial Day parade.
“Today, Memorial Day, we come together to remember those men and women who believed in an ideal so strongly they were willing to give the greatest sacrifice of all their lives,” she said. “In their honor, I offer you this poem by Archibald MacLeish.
“The young dead soldiers do not speak. Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses: Who has not heard them? They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts. They say: We were young. We have died. Remember us. They say: We have done what we could, but until it is finished it is not done. They say: We have given our lives, but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave. They say: Our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them. They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say, it is you who must say this. We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning. We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.”
McCreary then asked those in attendance to pause with respect and honor and remember those that fought and gave their lives as well as those who continue to fight.
“We owe each of them the highest regard, respect and honor,” she said. “And our assurance that their commitment to this nation will never be forgotten.”
Lt. Col. Steven Nott, of the U.S. Army, spoke as well.
“Each year across America our citizens take a brief moment out of their busy lives to thank and honor all military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” he said. “On Memorial Day, we fly the nation’s colors at half-staff, we place flowers and flags at grave sites, and we say words of gratitude. We offer these tokens as compensation on a debt paid in blood by others.”
The soldiers of the U.S. military have always understood that the freedoms of the nation won’t endure without a firm and clear resolve, said Nott.
“Sometimes a terrible and final price must be paid,” he said. “The members of your armed forces, past and present, understand the meaning of sacrifice.”
Even during peace times, said Nott, members of the various branches of the military still suffered hardships and prolonged separation from families.
The most potent weapon in times of war are the brave men and women in uniform, he said.
After speaking about the various wars the military has been a part of in the past, Nott spoke about the present.
“In this newest century, American military members are once again engaged with an enemy who struck our homeland and openly threatened to destroy the very idea that defines who we are,” he said. “Our enemies thought America had grown weak, that we no longer possessed large numbers of men and women who embrace the moral qualities of selfless service, honor and duty. We all know how wrong they were. Our military is stronger than ever.”
Nott said he believes the global war on terrorism is not the last time men and women will raise their hands and say they will serve.
“Our freedom has always had a price,” he said. “Our debts are all too often paid in full by others who we never met. I ask you all on Memorial Day to reserve a brief moment of time to share it with family and friends to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces, which provide us the opportunity to enjoy life in this great nation of ours.”
Frank Harmon, commander of the American Legion Post 139, instructed the bagpipe band under the leadership of Sean Hannoway, to play “Amazing Grace” before the parade reassembled and continued to Pirone Park.