WESTFIELD/SOUTHWICK – The Westfield Veterans Council will mark Memorial Day May 31 with a ceremony at Parker Memorial Park at 11 a.m.
Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. said May 24 that the Westfield Veterans Council, which organizes the annual parade, will march this year from American Legion Post 124 on Broad Street, down West Silver Street to Parker Memorial Park where there will be a ceremony to mark the day.
The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast live on Westfield Community Programming Channel 15 and Westfield’s YouTube channel.
Humason said the Veterans Council traditionally organizes the Memorial Day parade, not the city, and invites city officials and other organizations to participate. This year, because of COVID-19, a parade could not be organized in time once Gov. Charlie Baker announced industry and capacity restrictions would be lifted May 29.
“When we found out restrictions would be dropped by Memorial Day, I called Julie [Barnes, Westfield veteran’s service director] to see if the Veterans Council wanted to put something together,” Humason said.
The group chose to march to the ceremony with fellow veterans this year instead of trying to organize a parade.
“Planning the parade takes a lot of time,” Humason.
Humason encouraged the public to celebrate.
“Everyone is invited to the ceremony and welcome to watch the veterans march,” he said, noting that while all those who served will be honored, there will be special honors for those veterans who died from COVID-19 this past year, particularly at the Soldiers’ Home at Holyoke.
The American Legion Post 124, Westfield Marine Corps League Detachment 141, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 219 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 872 will participate in the ceremony, along with city and state officials.
Barnes and Humason handed out flags at Parker Park last year to anyone who came to the park, not realizing the annual ceremony had been hosted earlier and recorded so that social distancing could be followed. Barnes said this year, they want to honor those who died during the pandemic because many could not be honored at their time of death.
“Many of our fallen veterans were not given proper military honors due to COVID restrictions. The City of Westfield Veterans Council will be honoring our veterans who passed away in the last year at the virtual Memorial Day ceremony,” said Barnes.
The Officer of the Day will be Keith Burkhout and Master of Ceremonies will be Gary Fontaine, with guest speaker Frederick Benda. The National Anthem will be played courtesy of Jay Pagluica with Invocation by Chaplain Richard Olechna, Post 124. There will be a proclamation reading for Project 351 Ambassador Jillian Battles and remarks from Humason, state Rep. Kelly Pease and state Sen. John C. Velis. The Benediction will be given by Chaplain Laurie Greeley, VVA 219 and wreaths will be laid at the event.
A Memorial Day observance will also be hosted in Southwick May 31. The American Legion is hosting a ceremony at 10 a.m. at the new cemetery. There will be no parade and those choosing to attend may do so following CDC guidelines.