Published November 15, 2018
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — Young and old alike took time from their hectic lives on Sunday morning to give thanks to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served their country in the armed services in times of both peace and turbulence.
The cold temperatures brought the ceremony indoors for the second year in a row, but did not dampen the spirit of the occasion where the walls of the Batchelder School gymnasium remained festooned with the patriotic drawings and first-person biographies of veterans compiled by the students for their annual Veterans’ Day assembly, many of which featured relatives of the young writers.
This year’s event also marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice with Germany that ended World War I. A bell was tolled 21 times in tribute to occasion as part of the nationwide “Bells of Peace” tribute to mark the end of what was said to be the “war to end all wars” at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Veterans’ Services Director Susan Magner along with the North Reading Veterans Memorial Committee and North Reading Veterans Event Committee coordinated the event which included a keynote address by honored guest speaker Lt. Col. John Barrette, USAF, Ret., of North Reading, a reading of a Proclamation in honor of Veterans’ Day on behalf of the Select Board by board member Andrew Schultz, the North Reading Police Honor Guard let by Police Chief Michael Murphy and an invocation by Deacon Al Balestracci, a Korean War veteran.
North Reading Marching Hornets Drum Major Jessica Palazzolo led the band in patriotic songs and buglers Christopher Nearing and Laura Wagner played Taps.
The Master of Ceremonies was Sean Wilen, a nephew of Youth Services Director Jennifer Ford. The town’s Scouts – Boy Scout Troop 750, Cub Scout Pack 731, North Reading Girl Scouts and North Reading Venture Crew 921 – led those gathered in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Patriot Guard Riders and Ride Captain Grace Washburn provided the colors on the stage.
Hugo Wiberg IV read his award-winning essay, “What the Flag Means to Me.” He was the 2018 scholarship recipient in the annual contest sponsored by the Republican Town Committee.
The town’s veterans were also well-represented by the the DAV Post Chapter 37, the North Reading Minit and Militia, and the North Reading VFW Post 10874, whose Commander, Arthur Cole, laid the ceremonial wreath at the stage. Wreaths were also laid at each of the town’s war memorials at the top of the common and members of the National Guard 272nd Chemical Co. of Camp Curtis Guild in Reading brought military vehicles for the children to explore.
The speech delivered by keynote guest speaker Lt. Col. John Barrette, USAF, Ret., of North Reading, is reprinted in its entirety below:
Good morning distinguished guests, ladies, gentlemen, and children. With gratitude in my heart, I would like to thank everyone who has given their time this morning to assemble here in the great town of North Reading for this 100th Anniversary of Veterans Day. I especially want to thank Ms. Susan Magner who each year selflessly leads the organization of this solemn event. We also thank all the participants and sponsors and especially the North Reading High School Band and the North Reading Scouts who volunteered their time this morning.
Throughout 28 years of service to our nation, both in uniform and as a civilian, I have received no greater honor than witnessing the outpouring of support by fellow Americans at events like these. Our town is truly special in this regard.
Before I share my thoughts on the significance of this day, we must enthusiastically recognize those present who have given their time, talent, and treasure in military service to the greatest nation on earth. Please join me in a warm round of applause for all veterans present here today, and vets please stand if you’re able.
On the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, in nineteen hundred and eighteen, Germany signed the Armistice treaty that ended World War I. One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, saying: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
Through the generations and the terrible wars of liberation that have followed, we observe this national holiday, renamed Veterans Day in 1954, to express our common sense of gratitude for the incalculable sacrifices made by those who served in defense of our nation and in defense of freedom and human rights around the world. In the 20th century alone, our armed forces freed well over 150 million people from the grips of communism and other tyrannical regimes. And in our 21st century, millions of U.S. men and women have helped Iraq and Afghanistan emerge from decades of violent oppression. The photos of women in Iraq and Afghanistan raising their blue fingers after voting for the first time are a powerful reminder of the peaceful purposes for which our mighty military has been deployed.
On September 22, 1776, just before he was put to death for treason by the British, 22-year-old Nathan Hale of Connecticut said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” This powerful sentiment has resonated through the generations. Millions of American youth over our nation’s 242-year history have answered the call to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
The price paid since the American Revolution in lives and shattered bodies is beyond measure. But we continue to see the dividends reaped by the progression of freedom around the globe. At the beginning of the last decade, it would have been unfathomable to see girls and women in Afghanistan getting an education; today females at Kabul University are earning their bachelorette degrees in fields such as pharmacy, computer science, and law, and many of them will continue on to graduate studies. American soldiers are this very day protecting young Afghani girls on their way to and from grade school.
This Veterans’ Day, my spirits are lifted in witnessing this town coming together to remember the rich blessings of liberty and remember those who have sacrificed to protect it. May this annual gathering continue to be a legacy passed from generation to generation.
The French historian Alexis De Tocqueville, in his book, “Democracy in America,” wrote: “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Today, I wish each of you the blessings of liberty, and a foundation of faith in God