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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff
It looked as though it could have been a scene from a Hollywood funeral. The weather was cool and clammy, with rain alternately spitting and pouring down. Attendees labored to stay dry and comfortable, shielding one another from the elements with umbrellas, raincoats and open arms. A somber feeling permeated the proceedings.
This was no funeral, though - not in a conventional sense, at least. This was Memorial Day in Needham, and here at Memorial Park, the town had gathered to pay its respects to those who had paid with their lives for freedom. While one could not claim the day to be the perfect epitome of a holiday that's so often identified with summer's fun and fancy-free spirit, it was perhaps more appropriate to the actual spirit of Memorial Day.
Caught up in the backyard barbecues, beautiful weather and ubiquitous friends and family that have come to define Memorial Day, it is easy to forget the profound sacrifices the Day exists to honor in the first place.
The dreariness of this day, however, seemed determined not to let the assembled forget. It was a point that was continually reinforced as the parade made its way up Highland Avenue, the flag was raised, "Taps" was played, wreaths were laid, and speakers encouraged gratitude and remembrance.
Matt Borrelli, Chariman of the Board of Selectmen, began by relating the story of his own family's experiences in WWII and Korea, including the story of an uncle who was killed in the Battle of Saint-Lô.
"The names on our monuments throughout town give a history lesson on the sacrifices shown in multiple conflicts,” he said. “Although these brave men have served at different times, they all had one thing in common: they called our town home."
"We ask that we remember two powerful words today: always remember," continued Borrelli. "Always remember these brave men and women and teach the next generation to remember their sacrifices."
State Representative Denise Garlick, who spoke from the heart in the wake of the sudden loss of her nephew, had particularly poignant words of her own.
"We cannot pretend that war is from a time long ago with mythical people called heroes. We must face that war is today, death is now, and the loss is immeasurable. Our grief must be unfathomable. For every serviceman or woman who gives their today for our tomorrow, we must be conscious of the loss and acknowledge that loss to his or her mom and dad, his or her children, his or her community, his or her country, and to us," said Rep. Garlick, looking out over a silent, sodden crowd.
"We must feel the heavy weight of the loss. It is right that we are here today. It is even right that we have braved the terrible rain. It is right that we honor their memory, although emotions will overcome us and words will fail us. It is also right that we are grateful and humbled for the great and terrible price that has been paid for our tomorrows."
As Needhamites left Memorial Park, returning to their homes, families and tomorrows, one thing seemed certain: this year's unique Memorial Day would not be forgotten.