No Parade, but a Memorable Day

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During Suffield’s Memorial Day observance, Jack Burke presents the Confession of National Faith. His recitation was extraordinarily effective.

Photo by Lester Smith

During Suffield’s Memorial Day observance, Jack Burke presents the Confession of National Faith. His recitation was extraordinarily effective.

A threatening weather forecast led to the disappointing cancellation of Suffield’s traditional Memorial Day parade. But in the high school auditorium, recitations by two talented students and short addresses by two impressive lieutenant colonels made the day thoroughly memorable.

Following a rousting medley of military music by the high school band, Officer of the Day Justin Donnelly opened the ceremony, the VFW color guard placed the flags, and Boy Scout Ben Bazzano of Troop 66 led the Pledge of Allegiance. First Selectman Melissa Mack spoke of the important community service performed by several recently deceased veterans in Suffield, saying it was our duty to remember and honor their lives by doing our own community service.

Then Chaplain of the Day Scott Seabury, in his Memorial Day prayer, helped us remember that the occasion is more than a mere diversion. A musical interlude by the band followed.

The first talented recitation was “In Flanders Fields”, the well-known, evocative WWI poem. Presented expressively, from memory, by SHS senior Caelie Flanagan (in her band uniform as she also served as band leader), this lovely poem cannot ever have been offered more beautifully than in this recitation in Suffield.

The little-known Confession of National Faith that followed, traditionally a part of Suffield’s Memorial Day, can seem like an over-long, ungraceful, document, but this time was different. Recited enthusiastically (from memory!) with excellent phrasing and emphasis by SMS seventh grader Jack Burke, the Confession took on meaning this observer had never sensed in the document.

As always, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address followed, read by Andrea Maffei. He was substituting for the announced reader, Giancarlo Isotti.

The Memorial Day speaker was Lt. Col. Dan Cloyd, U. S. Army Reserve. He told the history of Memorial Day, then shared the stories of individuals from his experience whose military sacrifice he particularly remembers. He included Suffield’s honored son, USMC Cpl. Stephen Bixler, who was killed by an IED in Iraq in 2006.

For the first time in Suffield, this Memorial Day included a special POW/MIA remembrance. Lt. Col. William Moryto, also a Marine, had set up a small table in the cross aisle, with a single, meaningful place setting. He explained the traditional symbolism: White tablecloth for purity of intention responding to the country’s call, red rose for blood shed to ensure freedom, a lemon slice representing the bitter fate of the missing, and other significant elements. Col. Moryto urged us all to contemplate the table after the ceremony. Justin Donnelly added that after Melissa Mack’s great uncle’s plane went down in the Korean War, he was never found.

Col. Moryto set the memorial wreath in place on the stage, the VFW Honor Guard fired a salute to the dead outside the open stage door, and taps was played by an SHS trumpeter, then echoed outside. Shannon Frechette closed the program with her solo rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

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