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Honor, memory

Greenfield observes Memorial Day with parade, ceremony

  • A veteran pushes a wreath into the memorial outside the Greenfield Public Library on Monday during the Memorial Day Parade.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    A veteran pushes a wreath into the memorial outside the Greenfield Public Library on Monday during the Memorial Day Parade.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Children sit on Main Street in Greenfield on Monday to watch the Memorial Day Parade.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Children sit on Main Street in Greenfield on Monday to watch the Memorial Day Parade.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Greenfield High School band member plays taps during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    A Greenfield High School band member plays taps during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield residents line the streets during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Greenfield residents line the streets during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Veterans pay their respects at the Greenfield Veterans Memorial during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Veterans pay their respects at the Greenfield Veterans Memorial during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • A child peers out the window of the trolley bus in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    A child peers out the window of the trolley bus in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield residents cheer and wave American flags during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Greenfield residents cheer and wave American flags during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • A young boy and his father watch the veterans march in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    A young boy and his father watch the veterans march in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Sunday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • A veteran pushes a wreath into the memorial outside the Greenfield Public Library on Monday during the Memorial Day Parade.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Children sit on Main Street in Greenfield on Monday to watch the Memorial Day Parade.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • A Greenfield High School band member plays taps during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Greenfield residents line the streets during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Veterans pay their respects at the Greenfield Veterans Memorial during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • A child peers out the window of the trolley bus in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Greenfield residents cheer and wave American flags during the Memorial Day Parade on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • A young boy and his father watch the veterans march in the Greenfield Memorial Day Parade on Sunday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

GREENFIELD — On the day set aside for public acknowledgement of the country’s war dead, from the American Revolution to the present, speakers by the memorial naming those Greenfield residents who died in and those who survived the Vietnam War called on the hundreds in attendance to honor those who survived as well as those who died, and work for a peaceful future.

Timothy Niejadlik, the town Veterans’ Services director, asked the crowd to remember veterans who continue to suffer and die after the fighting is over.

“What of the thousands of men and women who died of the injuries they suffered in war after the battle? These injuries may be noticeable, like a missing limb or burned off parts we’ve seen on television from Iraq and Afghanistan — the wounds I want you to remember today are the ones our Vietnam veterans are dying from caused by Agent Orange,” Niejadlik said.

The federal Veteran’s Administration currently presumes 14 diseases and disorders including a variety of cancers, when found in Vietnam veterans, to be associated with exposure to the herbicides used to destroy swaths of jungle.

“Here we are 40 or 50 years later and they’ve come home and they are still dying today from this wound they’ve suffered while serving our country,” Niejadlik said.

“So as you go home today, if you have a neighbor who’s a Vietnam veteran, thank him, even though he didn’t die in action he may be suffering from something he saw in Vietnam or a chemical that he encountered.”

Guest speaker John Davis, director of McCarthy Funeral Home, spoke of conversations with high school students while placing flags at veterans’ graves, and one young man’s view that history has a way of repeating itself when it comes to war. “Pretty profound statement from a 17-year-old, and I paused for a moment and answered simply ‘yes,’ and offered that I hoped they would become instruments of change for a more peaceful world, with hope that their children would never have to experience war in their lifetime,” Davis said.

“Freedom is the hallmark of this country. What we do with the freedom that they helped to preserve is as much a part of our tribute to them as any speech or ceremony could be,” Davis said.

An honor guard of Vietnam War veterans placed a wreath before the Vietnam memorial, as others did at other memorials the length of the parade route winding from the Greenfield Middle School to Veterans’ Mall.

Greenfield native William “Bill” Phelps was among the Vietnam honor guard, placing a wreath before the memorial he designed as chairman of the Vietnam Memorial Committee in 2005.

Phelps said he served 22 months with the U.S. Army special forces, the Green Berets, from 1967 to 1968 — including the 1968 Tet Offensive launched during the Vietnamese lunar new year and a less-remembered precursor.

“I was in both Tets; there was one in ’67 but ’68’s the one everyone heard about. ’68 wasn’t a walk in the park either,” Phelps said. “They have Tet every year, it’s the lunar new year ... but ’68 was obviously the worst.”

Phelps said he was glad to see the ceremony moved from the Civil War side of the small memorial park to the Vietnam memorial, which lists the names of those like him who served and survived, and the 12 men who died. Phelps pointed to Ronald Sherman’s name among those killed in action; Phelps said Sherman used to take over his paper route when he went on vacation.

For Phelps, Memorial Day is about remembering those who served and lost their lives, mutual respect between veterans and branches of the military, and remembering lost family and loved ones.

“It’s family and nation, God and country, those are probably overused terms, but I believe in those. Duty, honor, country,” he said. “It’s sad to see things dropping off, but today was a nice day, we had real good attendance today I think ... it was really good to see people out.”

Hinted at throughout the morning, a light rain dispersed the crowd minutes after the conclusion of the ceremony.

Waiting for the parade on Main Street, Lucy Bonnette said her late husband was a veteran of World War II, having served in Normandy, Sicily, the Battle of the Bulge on the Western Front and half a dozen other battles and places.

“We’ve got to support the veterans that are serving, and those that have served,” Bonnette said.

Nearby, Mill House neighbor Cynthia Dodge also waited for the parade, to see her granddaughter in the marching band and for the military.

“We need to recognize them and honor them and honor our fallen soldiers,” Dodge said. “It’s our country, it’s our duty. They did their duty, we need to do our duty, to honor them. And it’s Memorial Day.”

The middle and high school bands were a big draw.

Jax Clark, age 3, sat on a mailbox beside his father before insisting on a move to his shoulders while the two waited for Jamie Clark’s other son, De-Andre, to pass with the middle school marching band.

Further along Main Street, Carl and April Secore semi-successfully curbed the enthusiasm of daughter Langston MacKenzie, 4. Son Joseph Alan, 19 months, was less difficult to keep track of.

Carl, in Navy uniform, said his own stint in the Navy was cut short when the submarine tender USS Dixon was decommissioned in 1995.

“Now I got my own little task force here,” Carl said.

“My whole family’s military, my dad was Navy in Vietnam, my granddad was Army in Korea and wounded in Normandy, and every male on my wife’s side were Marines,”

Carl said. “Got to remember everyone else that was out there, enjoy the parade, and the kids love bands.”

“Wife loves bands; was in one,” April added.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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