PEPPERELL — Honoring and remembering the men and women who gave their lives fighting against injustice and defending our freedom is of vital importance, remarked Selectman Patrick McNabb, keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremonies. “Those fallen men and women should not be forgotten.”
“At least 45 Pepperell men have given their lives for our country,” he said.
Pepperell remembered its veterans with pride as residents lined the parade route waving flags, saluting and applauding the marchers.
The Guarnieri family placed a sign in front of their house reading: “To our military: you stood up for our country, now we stand up for you.”
A family spokesperson said they put the sign out every year.
The Rev. Priscilla Lawrence asked for remembrance of all the fallen who gave their lives for others; American servicemen and women, public safety and medical personnel, private citizens.
The importance of public- safety workers was demonstrated during the parade. Marching firefighters jumped into the back of a pickup truck after it pulled up to the parade. Minutes later fire equipment interrupted the parade to go on the call.
After the firefighters were finished with the emergency they resumed their place in the procession — wearing fire gear rather than the dress uniforms of earlier in the morning.
The parade was a community effort. Mike Green of 1A Auto on Chapel Place said his business began sponsoring the parade last year after the town cut the budget for the event. His grandfathers and father were veterans. Their names were displayed on the vintage convertibles the business supplied for the parade.
This year the event was co-sponsored by 1A Auto and by Det. Bill Whitehead and the Pepperell Police Patrolmen and Superior Officers Association.
Many others made the parade a successful community event. Members of the North Middlesex Regional High School Band and the Nissitissit Middle School Band performed during the parade. During the closing ceremonies they combined under Kevin Tellier, the middle school band leader.
Tellier said the Memorial Day parade is the only parade his band participates in. It is regarded as a community service.
Daisy, Brownie and Girl Scout troops marched in support of Pepperell’s veterans. The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts were there and so were the local branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Holly’s Bunch Dancers and several sports teams.
Vehicles from the 110th Maintenance Division from Fort Devens brought up the rear of the procession.
The crowd stopped to watch two quickly disappearing Air Force fighter planes as they performed a fly over of the parade route just before the closing ceremonies.
Thomas Farnesworth sang the National Anthem during the closing ceremonies. Paul Rakiey, Adjutant for Post 3291, was master of ceremonies and led the seven-member firing squad who fired three volleys at each service held along the route.
The parade and cemetery services were only part of the honor paid to the veterans. A mass was held before the parade at the grave site of the last Catholic to die in service. The Navy held a special service during the parade at the Nashua River. Stanley Newsham, 2nd Class Petty Officer retired, threw a wreath into the river in honor of Navy veterans.
The Memorial Day ceremonies in Pepperell honored and remembered those who “laid down their lives so others might live,” as Lawrence said in the closing prayer.