Soar subject: 131st Fighter Squadron Memorial Day flyover planned for Lenox

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LENOX — Unless called on for a last-minute mission, the 131st Fighter Squadron unit of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is set to fly over Main Street on Memorial Day.

Michael King, VFW commander, said four F15 Eagle fighter jets will fly north to south beginning about noon.

The squadron is one of the oldest units in the state and is part of the 104 Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield. King said the unit also would fly over Cheshire.

King, who runs the Berkshire Veterans Outreach Center in Pittsfield, said that while the flyover is planned every year on Memorial Day, some years the squadron had to cancel when called on a mission.

With Memorial Day services curtailed due to COVID-19, King said the VFW has worked "feverishly" to honor fallen soldiers with several private services and a wave parade that will cover as much of the town as possible.

There will be three small-scale memorial services throughout Lenox on Monday, followed by a wave parade.

"While we will not be able to drive every residential street, we have come up with the best route possible to get the most coverage of the town," King said. He emphasized the importance of following the state's public health guidelines outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker.

"These are solemn events intended to show honor and respect to the men and women who have died serving our country and a purpose much bigger than any individual," King wrote. "Many of our veterans in Lenox as well as many others in our community are elevated in age and are at high risk for infection."

While the public is invited to attend the scheduled events, social distancing and face coverings are required.

"Those who fail or refuse to adhere to the public safety guidelines will be asked to leave," King said. "Please do not turn a respectful moment into a selfish personal crusade because you disagree with the policies put in place in the interest of public health."

He asked those attending to maintain at least 6 feet of separation and avoid gathering in a group of more than 10.The schedule for Monday includes:

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9 a.m.: Memorial service, Lenox Dale Veterans Monument

9:30 a.m.: Service, St. Ann's Cemetery

10 a.m.: Service, Church on the Hill, Main Street

11 a.m.: Wave parade begins from Town Hall to Church Street, Housatonic Street, continuing east to Crystal Street, Elm Street, then up to Walker Street and back to Crystal Street. It continues up Housatonic Street to Pine Knoll and Delafield streets. Turning onto East Street, the parade continues north to New Lenox Road and then south on Route 7/20 (Pittsfield Road), ending downtown on Main Street at Town Hall.

The announcement of events comes in the wake of a request by Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, asking South Berkshire communities to host wave parades as a way to safely commemorate Memorial Day. In Stockbridge, a "soft" parade is planned Monday, according to interim Town Administrator Mark Webber.

There will be a silent "slow roll" of a few firetrucks, with no lights, sirens or horns, he said, adding, "it will be all very subdued and respectful, with a tasteful banner honoring veterans on the lead engine."

Lee, West Stockbridge, Richmond and Sheffield also have events planned.In Richmond, veterans will gather at the firehouse at 11:15 a.m. Monday, then join the Richmond/West Stockbridge Fire Department in a wave parade through town. There will be a ceremony at Richmond School beginning at 12:15 p.m.

The 131st Fighter Squadron is the redesignated 333rd Fighter Squadron deployed in the Pacific during World War II beginning in 1942. It was assigned to the Air National Guard at Barnes in 1946.

King, a retired sergeant major in the Army who spent two tours in Iraq, told The Eagle that he requested the flyover before the pandemic. He says that it doesn't take this or a parade to honor the fallen in what is a somber "holiday" that can be observed solemnly even while "flipping burgers in your backyard."

"It's about passing on the respect for those of us who are willing to do things for the rest of us," he said. "Individualism is a very big thing, and I find it difficult to get people involved in things that are bigger than themselves."

Eagle correspondent Clarence Fanto contributed to this report.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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