On Memorial Day weekend, another big gathering assembled at the Sportsmen’s Cabin on West Suffield Mountain to honor our hometown hero, Cpl. Stephen Bixler, USMC, who lost his life protecting his Marine comrades on patrol in Iraq 13 years ago. As always, the annual picnic was an enjoyable affair, with plenty of good food, soda and beer, and happy sociability. And, more than ever, a tremendous number of raffle and silent auction prizes were laid out on a dozen banquet tables.
Rep. Joe Courtney dropped in, as he often has, and both active duty and retired service members came, along with local folks honoring Steve and supporting the memorial fund his family created. The Bixler fund makes helpful grants to local charities and other deserving causes.
Most importantly, the picnic was an opportunity to remember all those who gave their lives in service – that’s the essence of Memorial Day. And that was the message of First Sergeant Ben Grainger, USMC, Ret. He came with several members of Valhalla, a veteran’s organization that provides assistance to veterans in many ways. Speaking to the crowd after Rich Bixler had opened the program and thanked all the supporters, Sergeant Grainger gave an impressive, heartfelt, talk about our fallen fighters, ending with, “Their spirit is always with us!”