A day of respect: Greenfield parade, ceremony seeks to remember the fallen, while also urging people to enjoy the day

Vietnam veterans Bill Phelps and Dennis Dwyer lay a wreath in front of the Vietnam War memorial at the Veterans Mall in Greenfield.

Vietnam veterans Bill Phelps and Dennis Dwyer lay a wreath in front of the Vietnam War memorial at the Veterans Mall in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Veterans make their way out of the Greenfield Middle School parking lot in a U.S. Army Jeep.

Veterans make their way out of the Greenfield Middle School parking lot in a U.S. Army Jeep. STAFF PHOTO/ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Greenfield High School marching band leads the 2024 Memorial Day parade on Franklin Street.

Greenfield High School marching band leads the 2024 Memorial Day parade on Franklin Street. STAFF PHOTO/ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

The Memorial Day parade makes its way down the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls.

The Memorial Day parade makes its way down the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls. FOR THE RECORDER/DIANE BRONCACCIO

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-27-2024 4:47 PM

GREENFIELD — After recounting the deaths of Marines Sgt. Maj. Robert Cottle and Lance Cpl. Rick Centanni, two marines who were killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Jeffrey Cochran asked veterans and residents to remember and pay tribute to fallen U.S. service members this Memorial Day, but to try to enjoy the day as well.

Cochran, who now works as the veterans’ service officer for the Upper Pioneer Valley District, was the guest speaker at this year’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony. Addressing a crowd at the Veterans Mall, Cochran spoke about how he hoped to be deployed to serve alongside Centanni and Cottle in Afghanistan, but instead, ended up with the responsibility of arranging a military funeral for the fallen Marines, a task that he referred to as an unparalleled honor.

“I challenge you today to, yes, remember your brothers and your sisters but also, enjoy this day too. Don’t sit around being upset and sobbing all day long, they wouldn’t want that. They would want you to spend time with your family, have those cookouts and enjoy your time,” he said. “We’re here on Memorial Day to pay tribute and respect to Lance Corporal Centanni, to pay respect to Sergeant Major Cottle and we’re here to pay respect to the fallen brothers and sisters that you served alongside with, regardless of the war in which we were in.”

Prior to the ceremony, Greenfield residents lined the streets cheering and waving flags as a parade procession comprising American Legion Post 81 veterans, the Greenfield High School Band and Greenfield Police and Firefighters marched and rode from Greenfield Middle School to Main Street.

The parade moved through the city, first stopping at the Federal Street Cemetery, where veterans laid a remembrance wreath and saluted to fallen service men and women as Greenfield High School Band members performed “Taps,” a military bugle call played to signal “lights out.”

The procession later stopped at the Mexican-American war statue in front of the Leavitt-Hovey House for another wreath presentation at the Common before it made its way to Veterans Hall. There, Vietnam veterans Bill Phelps and Dennis Dwyer rendered a slow salute after laying a wreath in front of the Vietnam War memorial as a final performance of “Taps” cut through an otherwise silent moment.

“As we observe Memorial Day with this ceremony, may we remember and honor those who died to preserve our freedoms, we also remember our departed loved ones. They will live in our hearts and memories forever,” Coast Guard Veteran Michael Aldridge said in an opening prayer.

After thanking the event’s organizers, the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans Services District, for their service to local veterans and their families Mayor Virginia Desorgher spoke briefly of the day’s importance. She also read Gov. Maura Healey’s Memorial Day proclamation, which outlined the national day of remembrance’s origin as “Decoration Day,” first observed in 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.

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“Memorial Day is one of the most significant occasions of the year. It is a time we all come together to collectively pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in service of our country. It is a time for reflection. It is a time for remembrance. It is a time for all of us to express our eternal gratitude to the individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice to uphold the values of our nation,” Desorgher said.

Towns across Franklin County held similar parades and ceremonies in observance of Memorial Day. In Shelburne, A parade made its way from McCusker’s Market, stopping at the Iron Bridge, to the Arms Library, where the town held a dedication to the women and men of the United States armed forces. Bernardton’s parade made its way from the former site of the Four Leaf Clover Restaurant on South Street to Center Cemetery for a presentation from representatives of Courageous Strides, a therapeutic riding program, as well as a speech from Steve Wilson of the Bernardston Unitarian Church.

In Deerfield, residents gathered at the South Deerfield Common at 8:45 a.m. for a parade and ceremony that included a presentation of the memorial wreath will be presented by Capt. Steven Debryn-Kops and Gold Star mother Kathleen Belanger, along with a recitation of the Gettysburg Address from Deerfield Elementary School students Conner Sheldon and Elliana DiNardo.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.