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Flags flutter, bugles play as Townsend honors its military

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TOWNSEND — Memorial Day is a day set apart to express honor and appreciation for the generosity and dedication of the men and women who have served, fought and died in our country’s military.

Townsend feted its veterans with a day of parades, music and ceremonies Sunday.

The bright, sunny weather lent itself to the patriotic display. Flags snapped in the gentle wind, which was just brisk enough to cool the participants and observers as they gathered in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Park in West Townsend.

Historic houses along the route decorated with red, white and blue bunting hosted gatherings on the front lawns. Adults and children waited on the balcony of the First Baptist Church of West Townsend, along the sidewalks and on the lawn of the West Townsend Reading Room to express support of the marchers.

Veterans were scattered throughout the procession. Many were in dress uniform, at least one in fatigues, and others in civilian clothing.

Robert Nickerson, an Army specialist in the Persian Gulf, now wears a heavy wool colonial costume. As a member of the Townsend Minuteman Company, he accompanied the procession through town.

Drums sounded, marking the cadence of the marchers. The Townsend Military Band performed at the services. Taps, with one trumpet nearby and another echoing in the distance, sounded at the end of each observance along the route.

Clergy paid tribute for the gifts given by military personnel to the community.

The Rev. Kevin Patterson of the First Baptist Church in West Townsend offered humble thanks for those who served and offered heartfelt prayers for those who mourn.

At the bridge on Mason Road he said, “Our thoughts turn seaward” for those who died at sea and have no tomb of stone, no grave of earth, no marble tablet and have left their survivors no place to mourn.

A special service at the bridge honored those lost at sea. A small boat rowed by Russell Jobe, senior vice commander at the Townsend VFW Post and former Navy man, glided from beneath the bridge. Linda Goodwin of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and Rebecca Blanchard of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary placed flowers on the water in memory of the lives lost.

More lives sacrificed were commemorated at the Riverside Cemetery.

We remember those who lost their youth in blood, saw their comrades slaughtered, and for grief and loss, the Rev. Shayna Appel from the Townsend Congregational Church said, quoting from a poem by Marion G. Mahoney.

A wreath was placed during the observance at the cemetery by Bob Tumber, a World War II veteran. He served in the Pacific as a seaman first class on the carrier USS Boxer CV-21.

Tumber, 85, was the oldest veteran taking part in Sunday’s ceremonies.

As the veterans gave selflessly for their community, the community in turn gave of themselves to honor the sacrifices.

Town officials marched in long-sleeved clothing during the sultry afternoon. Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts marched uncomplainingly in the heat.

Volunteers pushed a hand truck along the parade group and set up a mobile sound system at each ceremonial location. Steve Cloutier, who ran the sound, estimated the system weighed between 75 and 90 pounds.

Holly’s Bunch, a troupe of baton twirlers from Pepperell, marched along. An honor guard from the Fire/EMS Department in dress blues paid their respect.

Workers from the Townsend Cemetery and Parks Department worked hard to get the areas spic-and-span for the day, Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said.

Others were less visible. Women decorated the wreaths with poppies before the ceremonies. Buses waited to bring participants from one area of town to another.

As always, Betty May Tenny, president of the Townsend VFW Ladies Auxiliary and member of the Townsend Military Band, worked hard behind the scenes assuring everything would proceed seamlessly throughout the day.