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Your Tewksbury Today

Photo Gallery: Tewksbury Honors Those Who Gave It All

May 26, 2015 03:33AM ● By Bill Gilman
"Our fallen soldiers are not just statistics. They are real men and women with families from communities just like Tewksbury."
With those words, Paul McNaught, Commander of American Legion Post 259, capsulized the reason residents, local and state officials gathered at Tewksbury Cemetery on Monday for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony.
"Let us never forget what Memorial Day is about," said McNaught. "It's not about beaches, picnics or races. It's a day to remember."
The event featured the ceremonial laying of flowers at graves representative of local members of the armed services who lost their lives in armed conflicts throughout the nation's history. An Hoor Guard 21-Gun Salute was presented by members of VFW Post 8164 and the Korean War Veterans Association.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Air Force Col. David Hiltz, who spoke of visiting Bastogne, Belgium, where some 600,000 American troops participated in the Battle of the Bulge. More than 19,000 Americans were killed in action during the five-week campaign, which proved to be a pivotal battle of World War II.
Hiltz said he and his family were tremendously moved to be in a place where so many gave of their lives in defense of freedom. He made special reference to William Ford, a Tewksbury veteran who fought in The Battle Of The Bulge and was in attendance at Monday's ceremony.
Hiltz closed his remarks by quoting from the Gospel of John.
"Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends," he said.
Remarks were also given by Tewksbury Selectman Bruce Panilaitis, state Rep. Jim Miceli and state Sen. Barbara L'Italien.
Panilaitis paid tribute to those he called "the other one percent." That being the one percent of the American adult population that serves in the armed services. He said that as the father of a private, he knows this one percent doesn't enjoy the finer things in life.
L'Italien spoke of the tragic suicide rate among veterans (22 per day) and said she would work in her capacity as a legislator to make sure state veterans had access to the mental health care they need once they are discharged from active duty.
But the most powerful words of the day came from Miceli, who took the occasion to compare the United States military with its counterpart in Iraq, which recently suffered significant defeats at the hands of ISIS.
"It's a shame the last few days we're reading about the Iraqi army packing up their stuff and leaving," said Miceli. "Even though they outnumbered their enemy and had better equipment, they turned and ran. Our people don't run."
Music for the ceremony was provided by the Tewksbury High School Band and the Swinging Seniors. Also participating were the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and the Honor Guards of the Tewksbury Fire Department and Tewksbury Police Department.
The American Flag at the cemetery was lowered to half-mast by Tom Barry of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 110. The poem "Flanders Field" was recited by Courtney Graffeo.

(Photos by Kieran Gilman.)
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