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Honoring the fallen

Westfield holds Memorial Day events

June 1, 2017
By Cynthia Littleton - editorial@westfieldrepublican.com , Westfield Republican

Westfield paid tribute to fallen service members on Monday with its annual Memorial Day parade, plus a few speeches, the laying of wreaths, and the lowering and raising of the flag in Moore Park.

In concert with those public rituals, many families engaged in their own private salutes to those who came running when duty called.

The Sherman family gathered around 9 a.m. in Union Cemetery to pay tribute to Dale Sherman, who served no less than five hitches in the Army from 1945 to 1965.

Article Photos

Photos by Cynthia Littleton
Leigh Milliman of Westfield's American Legion post lays a wreath at the memorial in Moore Park to Westfield's fallen servicemen.

Sherman, who died in 2013, never spoke much about his experiences in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was more inclined to indulge in his passion for building model airplanes, his widow, Ann Sherman, remembered.

Dale Sherman's nephew, Duane Sherman, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps, said the long tradition of military service in the family makes it important for them to take part in Memorial Day observances.

"There is a real deep pride of family and country that goes back generations," Duane Sherman said.

Dale Sherman's gravesite was selected by Westfield's American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts for the wreath-laying tribute at Union Cemetery, which included a three-volley salute from an Honor Guard and the playing of Taps. Similar ceremonies were held earlier in the morning at Dan Reid Pier and St. James Cemetery. At St. James, the honoree for the wreath-laying was World War II veteran Salvatore Riscili, father of Honor Guard member Frank Riscili.

After the parade wound its way down Main Street, a large crowd of all ages including several well-behaved dogs gathered at Academy Street Cemetery.

"This is family," said Marcia Cochrane of Westfield. "This is a way for us to get together, to celebrate and to remember."

Cochrane was not far from the burial plot of her father, World War II veteran Frank Bowen. The sight of so many American flags on the sidewalk and in the cemetery made her think about the commitment her father's generation made to protecting the nation's ideals. "It's a way to remind the young ones that a lot has happened for them and for their freedoms," Cochrane said.

Tim Abbey, commander of Westfield's American Legion post, agreed with Cochrane's sentiment. This year marked his first time out as lead organizer of Westfield's Memorial Day events. Abbey, who is facilities director for Dunkirk City School District, ended his 20-year tenure in the Navy in 2013.

"It's important that our generation start picking up and carrying on these traditions," Abbey said.

Some in the crowd sang along as the Westfield high school band played "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Academy Street ceremony and some dabbed their eyes. Willie Torres sang the ballad "Soldiers Again." Guest speaker Bill Hemmer, an Air Force veteran and American Legion member, offered a primer on the history of Memorial Day and its origin after the Civil War as Decoration Day.

At heart, Memorial Day is a demonstration of gratitude for those who gave all in the service of their country. But that spirit shouldn't be contained just to the last Monday in May, Abbey told the crowd. "Really, we should be thankful every single day of the year," he said.

 
 
 

 

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