‘Each soldier has a story; each soldier is a hero’

  • Nancy Ross, U.S. Navy, was guest speaker at the Athol Veterans Council Memorial Day services at Veterans Park. Athol VFW Quartermaster Ron Ferguson, rear, raised the flag during the ceremony which was led by William Graziano, commander of the Athol American Legion Post 102, standing next to Ross. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Members representing different organizations from the Athol Veterans Council stand at attention during the Memorial Day Memorial Day services at Veterans Park. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2019 9:05:16 AM

ATHOL – As thin white clouds stretched across the blue sky during the Memorial Day program at Silver Lake Cemetery, Deacon Bryan Lagimoniere, of the North Quabbin Catholic Community Cluster, in his opening prayer said each soldier has a story, and each soldier is a hero.

On behalf of the Athol Veterans Council William Graziano, Commander of the Athol American Legion Post 102, led two well-attended programs Monday at the cemetery and at Veterans Park on Main and Exchange Streets to honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Lagimoniere, a Vietnam War veteran, asked the audience to remember those who died and to “be grateful to those who sacrifice and lay down their lives for a greater cause.”

Representatives from Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46, AMVETS Post 793, American Legion Post 102, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 650, Pequoig Detachment 1168 Marine Corps League, and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 340 participated in a flag raising ceremony as the Athol High School/Middle School band, directed by Brian Hicks and Alecia Piscatello, played the National Anthem. Commander Will Rivera, of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46, led the salute to the flag.

Rebecca Bialecki read a Memorial Day proclamation from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

Parade Grand Marshalls were Alfred LaFlamme, U.S. Army, WWII and Elwin Deveneau, U.S. Air Force, Korea. LaFlamme couldn’t attend due to an illness. Graziano said, “both, like many of the young men of their generation, stepped up to enter military service in defense of our country.”

LaFlamme entered the U.S. Navy in 1945 and upon completing his training, was assigned aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Randolph in the dangerous Atlantic Region. The ship itself earned three battle stars. He served honorably until returning home in 1951.

Deveneau entered the U.S. Air Force in 1953. After completing training as an electro-mechanical repairman, he was assigned to the occupation forces in Germany which was recovering from the impact of war. He also served in France and North Africa and left the U.S. Air Force honorably in 1961 as Staff Sargeant. Deveneau wore an authentic uniform of the period during the ceremony.

Graziano said, “both gentlemen are a reflection of the finest of young men and women serving among our military. They are here today to remind us of the efforts of our people but also to honor those men and women that gave that supreme sacrifice of which we are here today.”

During the observances, Graziano gave recognition to attending Board of Selectmen Bialecki and Stephen Raymond, Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera, Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey Parker, Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren and Lieutenant Ron Cote.

Eagle Scout Alan Keddy of Athol read a copy of General John A. Logan’s May 5, 1868 Memorial Day order “cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead.”

Graziano introduced a Roll of Honor of deceased veterans from all wars who are at rest in Athol cemeteries. This “reflection of a number of people who gave up their lives for this nation,” was introduced by individuals who took turns giving the numbers of those buried in each location, including: 30 in Calvary Cemetery, seven on Chestnut Hill Avenue, 417 in Gethsemane Cemetery, 16 on Doe Valley Road, 321 in Highland Cemetery, 23 on Mount Pleasant Street, four on New Sherborn Road, 21 on Pleasant Street, and 794 in Silver Lake Cemetery. He noted that 27 Canadians who served are also buried in Athol, and 30 veterans who never made it home are buried in France.

It was then broken down to specific wars: nine from the Revolutionary War, 30 from the Spanish American war, 312 from the Civil War, 314 from World War I, 759 from World War II, 132 from the Korean War, 85 from the Vietnam War, two from the Panama/Persian War, the 27 Canadians, and 20 from peace time.

Guest speaker Nancy Ross, U.S. Navy, Chair, Women Veterans Committee, DAV Dept. of Massachusetts, wanted to see the world and followed her calling at age 23 to join the Navy. Her family had served for generations, going back to the Civil War. She was stationed in a Patrol Squadron for anti-submarine warfare and deployed to Spain, Portugal and Iceland. As a lineman, she launched planes and moved up to managing eight P3 airplanes in Maintenance Control in a squadron of 500 and only 13 females.

During her enlistment, she faced an encounter which left her post traumatic. After her service she became homeless, addicted to drugs and abandoned by family. After 15 years of suffering, she was introduced to the Veterans Affairs system and became an inpatient at Women’s Integrated Treatment and Recovery Program. She continues therapy and shares her story to graduates of the program. Her documentary, “The Wounds We Cannot See,” reflects her fight to have a life worth existing. She is the recipient of the Unsung Heroine Award for her Veterans Horsemanship Program and the 2018 Deborah Sampson Award Recipient for her military service and continued community service. Ross continues to reach out to vets. “We are able to be here today largely thanks to those who are not,” she said.

Ross spoke of the 99 who died aboard the USS Scorpion nuclear submarine in 1968, a relative who was a prisoner of war and a Purple Heart recipient, and brothers from Quincy who went down as heroes. An admirer of Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War, Ross’ motto is, “I am not my past; I am progress in motion.”

She asked for people to “please reach out to help those who served,” for example, offering to drive them to medical appointments. “Their memories are never forgotten. I hope you keep our military men and women close to your heart today and every day.”

American Legion Auxiliary members placed a wreath while the American Legion Firing Squad fired a gun salute to departed veterans. A band member played taps.

Following the ceremony, a parade proceeded to Crescent Street and stopped near the L.S. Starrett dam to throw an anchor wreath into the river to honor veterans lost at sea. A gun salute followed. The parade continued down Main Street to the Veterans Park for a ceremony that closely followed the Silver Lake Cemetery program.

In his closing prayer, Lagimoniere said as a veteran, he was honored “to serve this great nation and to partake in the making of history and to witness firsthand the true cost of freedom.” He said remembering those who have passed is only half of the task. “Our children must know who they were, what they did and why they did it. To do anything less will be a disservice to their sacrifice and their memories.”

After the program, refreshments courtesy of the DAV Chapter 46 were served at the American Legion Hall to all participants.


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