Memorial Day Events Across Cape Cod Honor U.S. Armed Forces

CENTERVILLE – The fallen men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces were honored with parades, speeches and moments of silence at events across Cape Cod on Memorial Day.

In Centerville, the annual pancake breakfast at Our Lady of Victory Church and parade from Main St. to Beechwood Cemetery honored the war dead.

Joe Gentile of Centerville, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, said those who served are grateful that people remember their sacrifices.

“Veterans should be remembered every day. You must not forget them because freedom is not free. Many of them have sacrificed their lives,” said Gentile.

He served in the Philippines and was headed to Japan when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Gentile said it was critical to remember those who served all year and not just on holidays.

“Try to spend at least a few seconds just to think about veterans year round,” he said.

Yarmouth marked the holiday in front of town hall with a ceremony, while Dennis marked Memorial Day with speeches and music at Merrill Park.

Chatham residents gathered at the Community Center with members of the Chatham VFW, American Legion and U.S. Coast Guard.

In the early afternoon, a ceremony took place at the John F. Kennedy Memorial on Ocean Street with the Barnstable Police Department Honor Guard.

JFK Memorial Trust Fund Vice President Robert Jones, who delivered the keynote speech, said many people gather on Memorial Day to honor and consecrate the lives of fallen servicemen and women.

“We come to decorate the graves and we come to celebrate the lives of those who can speak no more,” said Jones.

“On this day, families and friends travel far and wide to visit a grave.”

Jones also remembered the day 55 years ago when he heard that JFK had been assassinated and how it impacted him.

The JFK Memorial Trust Fund Scholarship was awarded to Devin McDonald, Barnstable High School Class of 2018.

The scholarship recognizes those who display citizenship, character, leadership, cooperation, seriousness of purpose and financial need.

McDonald said JFK’s curiosity was similar to his own.

“He inspired America to be the best version of itself. I admire John F. Kennedy because of his ability to stay collected in grueling situations and because of his wholehearted commitment to this country,” said McDonald.

He also cited Kennedy’s work in creating the Cape Cod National Seashore with inspiring him to create an environmental club at Barnstable High School.

After graduation, McDonald will attend college at the University of Virginia.

Elsewhere on Cape Cod, Falmouth planned activities at the public library to be followed by a short parade.

In Provincetown, remembrances took place at the Civil War veterans monument, while Wellfleet marked Memorial Day with a ceremony at town hall.

Other events were held in Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Sandwich, Eastham, Brewster and Bourne.

The Troops in the Spotlight event took place at the K-Mart Plaza in Hyannis, with members of law enforcement and the military standing at attention for 24 hours.

On Saturday, Paul Monti and his Flags for Vets organization placed American flags on every grave at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

The event is held in honor of his son, Jared, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2006.

The first Memorial Day can be traced to three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that’s when the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day in 1966.

It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery.

A ceremony there on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff.

Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va.

The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier.

A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

By MATT PITTA, News Director

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