Sunday May 27, 2012

LENOX -- While many Berkshire County communities hold Memorial Day parades, only one has two distinct displays of patriotism to salute veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice -- even in wars that lacked widespread popular support.

The main event, organized by the town’s VFW commander Sean Ward, will be held on Monday at noon along Main and Walker streets, featuring guest speaker Heidi Nutt, a Lenox native who now lives in Lee. Her husband, David Nutt, died in May 2003 while serving in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division ("The Screaming Eagles") in Iraq.

"Memorial Day is to honor fallen soldiers and families and the sacrifices they made for us," Nutt said. "I’m humbled to be able to do this in honor of my husband."

"It’s a day to remember those veterans who were killed," said Ward, a town police officer, "and Heidi’s talk will definitely bring that back to home."

Selectman David Roche, formerly a U.S. Army Captain who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, said that Lenox has always been a patriotic town, even at a time when some returning soldiers received a less-than-warm reception in certain parts of the country.

"They had welcome-home parties for us here," said Roche, a lifelong resident. "A lot of guys my age from here went into the service overseas."

Roche noted that attendance has increased dramatically for the Lenox parade in recent years, thanks to the organizing efforts of the reconstituted VFW chapter led by Ward.

"Years ago, I was guilty of going to the beach or going horseback riding myself," Roche acknowledged.

Any veterans wishing to march are asked to be at the Church on the Hill, where the parade assembles, by 11:45. Veterans who may need a ride can contact Ward at 822-4343.

Most years, especially in good weather, there’s a robust turnout of townspeople as well as local government leaders. State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli plans to attend.

The town’s three fire companies -- Lenox, Lenox Dale and New Lenox -- participate, as well as units from the Lee Fire Department. Uniformed Little Leaguers will join the parade for the first time in years, said Ward.

The traditional, early-morning parade held down the hill in Lenox Dale starts at 8 a.m., organized by Lenox Police Department Senior Officer Timothy Sheehan and sponsored by the Lenox Dale Fire Company.

About 20 veterans, along with police and fire department units, begin at Veterans Memorial Park on Walker Street, proceeding to St. Vincent dePaul Church for a Mass for deceased and living veterans at 8:30 a.m. celebrated by the Rev. Christopher J. Waitekus.

Following the Mass, the parade continues through the village, ending at Veterans Memorial Park.

The parade in the Dale, as residents call the tight-knit community, originated in 1947, two years after the end of World War II, organized by the American Legion post in the community, Sheehan noted.

The village lost three servicemen in action in World War I and three more in World War II, he said. "Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, to pay tribute to a lot of people who died."

Also honored is the late Lance Corporal David A. Verheyn, a Lenox Dale war hero who won the Navy Cross -- the second highest award for military service -- for saving the lives of eight fellow soldiers in a 1967 reconnaissance mission during the Vietnam War.

Lenox Dale native Thomas Bosworth, who served in World War II along with his father, is among the marchers in a parade that’s relatively small but celebrates the village’s distinctive identity as well as its long history of distinguished service in the armed forces.