PITTSFIELD — Under clear blue skies, the names and Army rank of five Berkshire residents killed in the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, were read aloud Friday morning at Veterans Memorial Park.
Each name was followed by a single clang of a bell. A rifle salute and the playing of taps concluded the tribute to the fallen soldiers as their relatives, friends, fellow veterans and local dignitaries dedicated the newly installed Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial overlooking South Street.
The memorial honors Sgt. 1st Class Daniel H. Petithory, of Cheshire; Sgt. Glenn R. Allison, of Pittsfield; Chief Warrant Officer Stephen M. Wells and Specialist Michael R. DeMarsico II, of North Adams; and Specialist Mitchell K. Daehling, of Dalton.
DeMarsico's sister, Aubrey Harmon, felt proud to see and hear that her brother is remembered.
"He was ready to step forward and he made the ultimate sacrifice," she said.
Her husband, T.J. Harmon, wants people to know that the fight to defend America is far from over.
"People need to realize today, 9/11, we have soldiers still at war and they are why we have free speech," he said.
The five soldiers killed in action have their names etched on the front of the black granite monument, adorned with the seals of the U.S. military's five branches.
Pittsfield VFW Post 448 spearheaded the project, raising nearly $50,000, with at least an additional $2,800 needed to ensure a healthy maintenance fund for the memorial.
Skylight Studios in Woburn crafted the monument that was delivered and installed two weeks before the dedication.
The commemorative marker is surrounded by paver bricks that are in the donor's name, in honor of a loved one or for some other purpose, with no restrictions, project leaders say. The bricks are part of the fundraising campaign.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, who grew up on U.S. Air Force bases around the world, with her father, Lawrence Casey, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, said Friday's ceremony was "fittingly appropriate," given that it was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"Being on those bases, I remember the flags, the gentlemen and ladies in uniform, and taps," she recalled in her speech.
Two local Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans recalled their tours of duty and the ultimate sacrifice paid by more than 7,000 servicemen and women and the tens of thousands who came home physically, mentally and emotionally injured.
"In war, there is a whole new level of loss," said retired Army Sgt. Maj. Michael King, of Lenox, who was deployed twice to Iraq. "As long as there's war, there will be death; it's a matter of how we deal with it."
Pittsfield's Mark Pompi, a retired Army sergeant with 32 years of service that includes one tour each in Iraq and Afghanistan, looked to the Bible for why men and women answer the call to arms.
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, `Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, `Here am I. Send me,' " Pompi said, citing a passage from the Book of Isaiah.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com.