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AYER — Ayer paid tribute to its deceased soldiers with services at both Woodlawn and St. Mary’s cemeteries. Then dozens assembled as veterans, Scouts, emergency responders, bag pipers, and local and state politicians made their way down Main Street for the town’s official Memorial Day observances Saturday, May 29.

Parents brought children, who lined the sidewalks and waved in appreciation as veterans of all ages and several American Legion posts marched to Town Hall’s Memorial Garden. Gold Star Mothers Zelda Moore and Mae Watts and Gold Star Wife Rose Brennon were honorees, as the women behind Ayer men who died in military service to their nation.

American Legion Post 139 Chaplain Walter Forest led the ceremony in thankful prayer for all “comrades who showed their loyalties in their lives and sealed it with their deaths.”

“This day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” said American Legion Post Commander Tom Brown. “We honor the memory of those who gave in their lives in the service of their country, and of those other who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and are gone to their eternal rest. May the ceremonies of today deepen your reverence for our departed comrades.”

This year’s parade grand marshall was 87-year old John Tulli, who served in the Battle of the Bulge, Battle for Central Europe and the Rhineland Campaign with the 78th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during World War II. He is a frequent contributor to Ayer High School’s Veterans Day Programs, lead by his son, Steve Tulli. The younger Tulli is the school’s faculty adviser to Ayer High’s Massachusetts National Guard Leadership Education Program.

He noted that he, too, passed through Camp Devens before heading to Fort Bragg for basic training. He was later attached to the 78th Lightning Infantry Division in conjunction with General Patton’s 3rd Armored Division, “one of first to cross the German defended Rhine River — Cologne, Siegfried Line and Berlin … I was in the German capital at the end of the war during the occupation.”

While remembering the war dead, Tulli recognized the Gold Star Mothers and Wives, “because they feel the pressure and stress at home while their loved ones were away and fighting for our country.” Tulli closed saying, “I’d like to encourage today’s youth to continue to honor the veterans … Remember, freedom isn’t free.”

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge gave thanks for warriors lost in battle for the freedoms preserved, including the right to criticize government. He said he was honored to have read aloud earlier last week on the Senate floor the names of those who gave their lives in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

He, too, thanked Gold Star Mothers and Wives, “because I know they have given great sacrifice and great heartbreak giving their sons and daughters and their loved ones to keep our country secure and keep our country free.”

Ayer Selectmen Chairman Rick Gilles honored the war dead. “We owe them a debt of gratitude” and asked attendees to honor their memories with community service in any way possible. “Each of us have strengths that we can contribute to the common good. … It’s that you do it that is very important.”

Three rifle rounds sounded as Boy Scouts laid wreaths at the base of the five monument stones in the Memorial Garden. Affixed to one of the five stones is a new memorial plaque, listing the names of 88 new enrollees to the garden’s scroll. American Legion member and Army veterans Joseph Scunziano played taps before the parade reassembled for its march onto Pirone Park.

At Pirone Park, a wreath was placed in Grove Pond in a brief water ceremony to commemorate the nation’s war dead.

“A thousand battles of land, sea and air echo the glory of their valiant deeds,” said Brown. “Under the quiet sod, or beneath the murmuring waves, their bodies sleep in peace. But in the destinies of veterans, their souls go marching on. Because of them, our nation lives.”

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