By Beth David, Editor
The rain may have stopped the Fairhaven Memorial Day parade, but it didn’t stop the organizers or the public from honoring veterans who are no longer with us. Organizers moved the ceremony to the Town Hall auditorium where the Fairhaven High School Band, the choir from the First Congregational Church, and keynote speaker Donald Tucker, among others, contributed to the activities.
Outside, the Fairhaven Bell Committee displayed the Paul Revere-forged bell that hung in the cupola of the Oxford School until 2015. A parade float built by students of New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School made a fitting transport for this treasured piece of Fairhaven History.
Inside, Mr. Tucker, A US Air Force veteran, talked about the Congressional Medal of Honor, the country’s highest and most prestigious military decoration awarded for valor in action against an enemy force.
He told the stories of several local people who earned the award, including Sgt. William Carney of New Bedford. The Carney Academy is named after him. Sgt. Carney served in the civil war and carried the flag through a hail of confederate fire while grievously wounded, declaring, “The old flag never touched the ground,” when he reached another member of his regiment to hand off the flag. He served in the Army’s famous Mass. 54th Regiment, a volunteer, all-black regiment.
Mr. Tucker also told the tale of US Navy Lt. Thomas Hudner from Fall River, who landed behind enemy lines to save a fellow pilot who had crashed in Korea.
Mr. Tucker also recounted the heroism of Air Force pilot Maj. Lt. Col. George A. Davis, who was killed taking on 12 enemy MIG-15 aircraft in Korea, allowing friendly forces to complete their mission.
Douglas Munro, Signalman First Class in the Coast Guard, was killed shielding transport boats in Guadalcanal during WWII. He is the only CG member to receive the award.
Mr. Tucker did not tell a story of a specific Marine, but noted that they have a disproportionate number of recipients of the medal: 299.
Quite a high number for the smallest branch, said Mr. Tucker.
“So, oohrah for the Marines.
Mr. Tucker included personal notes in his talk, including a mention of meeting someone who knew Lt. Col. Davis and called him Curly because he was bald.
Mr. Tucker also said that his brother was killed less than two miles from where Signalman 1st Class Munro was killed. Mr. Tucker said his brother was 20 years old when he took a direct hit from enemy fire.
“There were no remains,” said Mr. Tucker. “All we got was a duffel bag with some of his personal belongings.”
He noted that there have been five pairs of brothers killed in action; and the well-known Sullivans, five brothers who were all killed when their ship sank in WWII.
“I can’t imagine what their mothers went through,” said Mr. Tucker. “I know what my mother went through when my brother died.”
Mr. Tucker urged people to fly the flag on Flag Day, June 14, and especially to remember the Medal of Honor recipients.
“And God bless America,” said Mr. Tucker.
Emcee Gerald Stabell told the crowd that Memorial Day is a traditional and somber day to make sure that those who died and served the country did not die in vain.
“They must never be forgotten,” said Mr. Stabell.
Officer of the Day George Brownell said that when he returned from Vietnam, people asked him if it was worth it.
“It was the highest honor to serve my country,” said Mr. Brownell.
He said he sees refugees leaving their countries all around the world, and thinks of the farmers and other average individuals who fought against the greatest army in the world in the Revolutionary War for the “land of the free.”
“It was worth it,” he said.
The Rev. Bette McClure of the First Congregational Church gave the opening and closing prayers, saying in her opening prayer: “May we who enjoy life never forget the cost of war.”
Brooke Douglass, Senior Class President at Fairhaven High School, read the Gettysburg Address; the FHS band and the First Congregational Church Choir performed several musical selections; and Fairhaven High School students Eagan Cabral and Aubrey Stalter played Taps.
Richard Ryle, Cmdr. American Legion Post #166, read the Legion’s Honor Roll; Jeff Cardoza, Cmdr. VFW Post #2892, read the VFW’s Honor Roll; Selectboard chairperson Charles Murphy read the town’s Honor Roll*; Selectboard member Daniel Freitas read General Logan’s Orders, which created Memorial Day in 1868 to help heal the divisions of the Civil War; Mr. Freitas also read a proclamation from Mass. Gov. Charles Baker.
*The names on the Honor Rolls are those of veterans who died in the past year only.
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