Pittsfield Memorial Day ceremony honors sacrifices of those who served

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PITTSFIELD — The twin themes of honor and remembrance echoed through the Morningside Community School gym during a solemn Memorial Day ceremony on Monday morning.

About 150 veterans, family members, local officials, clergy and respectful residents attended the event. The threat of inclement weather cancelled the city's annual Memorial Day parade and shifted the ceremonies into the Morningside gymnasium.

Mayor Linda Tyer was the keynote speaker. She was introduced by Master of Ceremonies John Harding.

Tyer reminded the audience that "today, we set aside time to remember our fallen heroes, who are buried here in our cemeteries, and in other cemeteries very far from here."

Quoting author, essayist, Civil War veteran and former Pittsfield resident Oliver Wendell Holmes, Tyer pointed out that "we owe them at the very least, one hour out of one day every year to remember their sacrifice."

Tyer recounted the history of the bugle call, "Taps," which was originally played in the early part of the 19th century merely to signify that the day was over and it was time to rest.

In 1862, however, it began to be played at memorial services, as well, which is what it is known best for in modern times.

Tyer also recited some little-known lyrics from that bugle call to end her oration.

"Thanks and praise,

"For our days,

"Neath the sun,

"Neath the stars,

"Neath the sky.

"As we go,

"This, we know,

"God is nigh."

Monday's ceremony was, as always, steeped in tradition. Annually, a local veteran reads the Orders of the Day for May 8, 1868, from General John A. Logan, Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. These orders established Memorial Day as we know it now.

Local veteran Michael Ancora, from memory, recited a portion of the Orders: "Let us then, at the time appointed, gather round their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime."

The Rev. Peter Gregory read the Roll of Honor, a list of local veterans who died this past year. As he read those names, local veteran placed commemorative poppy in an urn for each name.

Local veteran Anthony Pastore led the crowd in the National Anthem. Later, another local veteran, Martha Green, sang "America the Beautiful."

James H. Clark, Director of Veteran's Services in the county, told the audience that, this year, his organization had invited a number of elementary school students to the ceremony. This was done, he said, to help "our younger citizens learn the meaning of sacrifice."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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