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Marblehead’s tribute to fallen heroes

June 6, 2011

Memorial Day weekend 2011
text and photos by Katie Freedman

Veteran's Agent Dave Rodgers with his grandson, Braden at Waterside Cemetery. Braden's dad was at Paris Island for training.

The people of Marblehead came in droves on the morning of May 24 to help with the flagging of Waterside Cemetery. Lone adults, local boy scouts, and families with children came to pay homage to the Marblehead war veterans. An American flag was placed with honor beside all veteran’s headstones. The local residents respectfully and meticulously combed the grounds seeking each headstone referencing service to our country. Overcast skies and a light blanket of fog softened the image and muffled the sounds of this patriotic tradition. David Rodgers of Marblehead’s veterans’ services said over 1500 flags were given out for placement in Waterside Cemetery that morning. By eleven o’clock the cemetery had a crown of red, white, and blue, a true testament to Marblehead’s presence in acquiring and preserving our nation’s freedom.

Seth Moulton speaking at Memorial Park.

Two long, summer-like days later it was Memorial Day. Local soldiers and veterans mustered at the Old Town House and walked together to Tucker’s Wharf for a memorial service honoring Marblehead mariners who lost their lives at sea. They headed back to the Old Town House to start the parade which traveled to Memorial Park and then on to Waterside Cemetery. The streets of mid-town were lined with onlookers that morning as the crowd pleasing shiny-red fire truck crested the hill on Pleasant Street. With many American flags waving in hand, children and adults alike were captivated by the uniformed soldiers marching neatly in rows, the loud drums of the marching bands, the charming colonial uniforms of Glover’s Marblehead Regiment, and the local girl scouts and boy scouts who filled the streets. One young man was throwing candy to the delight of the children who dashed for a chance at a sweet. The Grand Marshall, Joel Mitchell, who served in World War II and in the Korean Conflict, smiled jubilantly and waved to the onlookers as he passed by in an antique car.

The Grand Marshall, Joel Mitchell, who served in World War II and in the Korean Conflict road happily in Tom Blacker's Model T.

A decorated war veteran and native of Marblehead, Seth Moulton, gave an eloquent and heartfelt speech at Memorial Park. Mr. Moulton took a moment to praise the Town of Marblehead for sending him a care package during one of his deployments. He expressed how meaningful and rare it was for a soldier to receive a package from their home town. He also spoke of The Spirit of ’76 before a sizable and silent crowd, stating, “as enshrined in the declaration and depicted in Abbot Hall. At its core, the spirit of ’76 is not just a hope but a sincere belief that we can be better than we are, that its worth changing to get there, and that it could be so good that it may even be worth dying to make the dream come true.”

Glover’s Regiment fired a 21-gun salute before the procession continued on to Waterside Cemetery for placing of the memorial wreaths and the final memorial service. Many of the crowd from Memorial Park walked briskly up to the cemetery in an attempt to intercept the parade again. The crowd at the cemetery had grown substantially.

Guest speaker, veteran John Crowley, spoke of how the living can best honor the fallen heroes through symbolism found in our American flag and in the memorial wreaths placed at the reflective pool of Waterside Cemetery. Mr. Crowley stated, “At the end of these services the flag of the United States symbolizes victory over oppression for the living, though this laurel wreath symbolizes victory over death to those who have made the supreme sacrifice and we place the laurel wreath in respect of our fallen heroes.” Connecting the symbolism found in the American flag and the ceremonial laurel wreaths, he explained, “in the flag the red stripes reflect those fallen, their courage and willingness to sacrifice, even their lives if necessary. In deed the red of our country’s flag gets even redder by the heroism and we place the red flower to symbolize their courage and gallantry. The white stripes symbolize their purity of purpose which impelled them into service for their country. The white flowers we place are a reminder of their unselfish devotion to duty. The blue of our flag symbolizes truth and fidelity and the desire of our missing comrades for peace throughout the world. These blue flowers symbolize the great love they had for their flag and our country. While we memorialize and mourn these wonderful warriors we celebrate their life and the lives they gave and continue to give all of us and with a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.” He went on to mention the great number of war casualties Marblehead has endured over the centuries recounting, “We have had numerous local Marblehead heroes throughout the many conflicts and wars, from John Goodwin who was the first to fall in 1861 in the civil war to Chris Piper whom we lost in Afghanistan.”

A fantastically patriotic conclusion of the memorial service, started with Glover’s Regiment firing another startlingly loud 21-gun salute and then the solemn sounding of taps. The large crowd displayed their patriotism outwardly by holding their hands over their hearts for the National Anthem, played by the Marblehead High School Band. The event ended with a sing along of God Bless America accompanied by both Marching bands. The crowd dispersed slowly when the song was over, no doubt, a little bit prouder to be an American and even more still to be from the Town of Marblehead.


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