TOWNSEND — Silent tears and quiet laughter graced Townsend’s Memorial Day ceremonies as veterans, families, bands and townspeople honored those who have given their lives in defense of their country.
People gathered at the VFW Park for a memorial service in the early afternoon on May 30. The Rev. Kevin Patterson of the First Baptist Church gave the invocation.
“We stand before you, O Eternal God, to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in defense of our country and to pray for those left behind,” he said.
The danger the troops are in today was acknowledged by the minister. “Guard the lives of those who still serve, who daily stand in harm’s way,” he continued.
“Grant that our leaders, and the leaders of every nation, may govern wisely and justly; that hatred and sectarian violence may cease, and enemies be reconciled; and that our troops may return safely to their families,” Patterson said.
Patterson led prayers at the VFW Park, the Canal Street Bridge and Riverside Cemetery. After each prayer the Townsend Military Band played a hymn followed by a volley from the American Legion Post No. 119 firing squad. In conclusion two trumpeters played taps.
As the parade processed through West Townsend to Canal Street, people stood outside on lawns and by the side of the road. Many held their hands over their hearts or saluted as the marchers passed by.
Buster Borneman, a former corporal in the Army artillery, led the firing squad. He recalled attending Memorial Day ceremonies as a child during World War II.
Then, as today, spectators gathered on the banks of the Squannacook River as people in a boat floated flowers into the water to honor the Navy dead. Borneman said the practice began sometime after the Civil War.
The organizers of the Memorial Day services involved townspeople of all ages. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts marched to honor the dead. Scouts Elizabeth Archambeault, Chuck Duckett, Mike Cloutier and Katherine Hitchens assisted veteran Bob Tumber in laying wreaths throughout town.
Dancers from Holly’s Bunch Dance Studio in Pepperell danced in the parade. The Townsend Minutemen, a re-enactment group led by Capt. John Barrett, were on hand in period garb.
Lt. Theresa Morse, retired from the U.S. Navy, served as parade’s marshal.
The Townsend Military Band was led by Ken Arsenault during the parade. Bette Mae Tenney, one of the ceremony’s organizers, played clarinet in the group.
The veterans and their families were honored and families enjoyed the day. More than one smile was seen when a young child called out, “Hi Daddy” to a marcher on the bridge.
The fallen servicemen and women were remembered and mourned. Both men and women wiped their eyes in the quiet following Taps.