PITTSFIELD -- Fran Tremblay wiped a tear from his eye as he listened to a bugler play taps to honor fallen comrades at a small Memorial Day celebration on Friday afternoon at Berkshiretown O'Connell Senior Living.
"That gets to me every time," said Tremblay, the chairman of the Pittsfield Veterans Coalition. "I can even hear it on TV and I would do the same thing."
Tremblay, 65, joined the Marines as a 20-year-old during the Vietnam War between in 1968. He wore a camouflage uniform, a black beret, and spotless black shoes during the short ceremony before residents of the assisted living home to commemorate those that have served on behalf of the United States.
On his uniform, he had a military ribbon that included the Vietnamese flag with four golden stars representing the four battles he was involved in.
"I think about all the veterans that have passed and how lucky I was to get out in one piece," he said.
Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving in the military, will be celebrated on Monday.
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who earlier in the day attended the funeral of a Dalton resident killed in Afghanistan, described Memorial Day as "the most solemn of holidays."
He also said the funeral was particularly touching because Friday was his oldest son's birthday.
"It really strikes home," Bianchi said. "When those young men raise their hand and pledge allegiance to the Constitution to defend democracy from harm's way, it's important for the people of America to stand behind them."
The ceremony, which included a speech from Bianchi, included representatives from the Marine Corps League Detachment 137, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 15, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter 448. The ceremony included a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of "God Bless America."
Teresa Marselli, 85, was one of the Berkshiretown residents in attendance.
During World War II, she recalled the uncertainty Americans felt about whether they would have their freedom by the war's end.
Everything from rubber and food was rationed to assist the troops, she said.
"Nobody was confident," Marselli said about winning the war. "We didn't think we would live past the 1950s because of the atom bomb. We were scared to death."
"I lived on Columbus Avenue right over here," said Marselli's friend, Brunina "Bunny" O'Donnell. She wore dog tags worn by her husband, William H. O'Donnell, during WWII.
"There was nothing more frightening than looking toward North Street and seeing nothing but darkness," she said. "It was black, just black."
Tremblay was presented an afghan sewn by the Berkshiretown Friends.
"It makes me feel good that people do remember the veterans," Tremblay said. "Not necessarily myself, but any of them. We don't do this for gifts, but we do it for our comrades."
To reach John Sakata:
On Twitter: @JSakata