| Sarah Heinonen
EAST LONGMEADOW — The crack of gunfire echoed through the air as four men in military dress fired rifles in unison three times to honor members of the armed forces who had died in the line of duty. The crowd that had gathered outside East Longmeadow High School stood in solemn silence, except for a toddler sitting on her father’s shoulders, who cried at the loud sound.
On May 29, people gathered at the school to commemorate Memorial Day. Fred Mickiewicz and Lenny Schmurs of the Italian American World War Veterans of the U.S. 64 removed the United States flag that had been flying at half-staff and raised a new flag in its place. Town Council Vice President Marilyn Richards and Vic Tidlund of American Legion Post 293 placed a wreath on a stand in front of the flagpole and recent East Longmeadow High School graduate Adler Johnston sounded taps.
American Legion Post 293 Commander Brian Tidlund, led the ceremony and spoke about the meaning of Memorial Day and “the brave men and women we honor today who have given up their lives for us.”
After the individuals and families filed into the school’s auditorium, Town Manager Mary McNally read Gov. Maura Healey’s 2023 Memorial Day proclamation, which remembered the day’s roots as Decoration Day in the first years after the Civil War when the graves of soldiers were marked with flowers. During WWI, the holiday became a time to remember veterans from any conflict who had died in the line of duty.
Johnston then read the General Order 11 of 1968 that established Decoration Day, followed by a reading of “In Flanders Fields,” a poem by John McCrae about the campaign to liberate Belgium in WWI.
East Longmeadow High School student Olivia Boas sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the commander played the themes for each branch of the armed forces while veterans who served in those branches stood at attention.
American Legion Post 293 member and East Longmeadow Veterans Memorial Committee Chair Terry Glusko then read the names of the 21 East Longmeadow service members who died in the line of duty, including two siblings. “We commemorate their sacrifice by calling them ‘the fallen,’” he said. As he announced each name, age, the branch in which they served, and in some cases their unit and where they died, students from Mapleshade Elementary School laid a red rose in a basket for each name read.
State Reps. Brain Ashe and Angelo Puppolo attended the ceremony. Puppolo said Memorial Day is a “tribute” to the fallen, a time to “reaffirm our commitment” to the country’s values and “consider what our world would be like” without the sacrifice of veterans who have died.
Ashe spoke about members of the armed forces “knowing they may never see those freedoms” for which they are fighting. While people would be coming together for picnics and other gatherings later in the day, Ashe said he could not help but think of the people who would not be there.
After the ceremony, as is tradition, wreaths were laid at the Town Hall.