FORESTVILLE – American Legion Post 209 member Ron Gagnon was walking over to Quinlan Park Monday when he stopped to salute an American flag in Forestville center.
A car passed by right then, beeping its horn at him and the other decorated veterans preparing to conduct a Memorial Day ceremony at the monuments in the park.
“Thank you!” a young lady screamed out the window as the car passed.
“It made me feel good,” Gagnon said afterwards, adding of this Memorial Day, “It’s a blessing. There are some people who really seem to care.”
Post 209 Commander Brian Avery joined Gagnon in leading a POW-MIA remembrance ceremony at the traditional Fallen Comrade or Missing Man Table. Each component of this demonstration symbolized a soldier’s absence, from the single red rose and candle, to the lemon and salt beside an inverted glass and single plate, atop a small table dressed simply with a white cloth.
“Let us remember to never forget their sacrifice,” Avery said. “May God watch over them and protect them and their families.”
Taps were played before a wreath-laying at the monuments, by Avery’s wife Tracy, a member of the Post 209 Ladies Auxiliary, and the couple’s young son Logan, a Sons member of Squadron 209.
Avery hand-selected six readings for members to recite aloud during the ceremony.
“I picked readings that have emotion and meaning to them, to reach the hearts of those here,” he explained. “Today is not about burgers and hot dogs and picnics; it’s about the ultimate sacrifice the soldiers gave so we can enjoy the privileges and freedoms we have as Americans.”
He thanked members of Post 209 and their family members who came out to participate in the ceremony, which followed a service at St. Joseph’s Mausoleum earlier in the day. The names of Bristol’s fallen soldiers were read aloud at that time.
Post 209 member Bruce Barton elected to compose his own personal letter to read during the ceremony.
“For veterans there are sights, sounds and smells that stimulate memories of someone who perished in war,” Barton read. “How can we celebrate that? For those of us who have gone to war and returned home, we have not returned unscathed, unscarred or unaffected. We carry within us those forever vivid memories. Also to be remembered are the men and women who died serving our country in non-combat roles. Those men and women who died in training, or transporting supplies or otherwise assisting the war effort. They too gave their lives for our country, our freedom. I want to thank each of you for attending our Memorial Day tribute.”
The ceremony concluded with the playing of “God Bless America” and a closing prayer from Post 209 Chaplain Tom Martino.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.