JOHN PEACH (right) accepted the Medal of Liberty on behalf of his brother, Chester Peach, a Wakefield resident who was killed in action while serving on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II. Presenting the medal is Wakefield Veterans Services Officer David Mangan. (Mark Sardella Photo)



WAKEFIELD — Wakefield paid tribute to its war dead yesterday, with morning Memorial Day ceremonies at the West Side Social Club and an afternoon program at Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School.

The town’s ceremonies at the Galvin featured two special recognitions.

The first presentation was in honor of Seaman 1st Class Chester Peach, a Wakefield sailor who was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hancock off the coast of Okinawa on April 7, 1945 when a Japanese kamikaze crashed on the flight deck killing 62, including Peach.

“His heroic actions in the face of the attack,” said Wakefield Veterans Services Officer David Mangan, “helped in saving hundreds of his comrades aboard the ship. The Medal of Liberty being awarded to his family today is a testament to his courage and brave commitment to his country and to victory in World War II.”

The second recognition was a proclamation presented to Jay Pinette, the recently retired Veterans Services Coordinator for Wakefield, Melrose and Saugus. The proclamation, presented jointly by the three towns, was read by Veterans Advisory Board secretary Robert Ettinger.

The proclamation recognized Pinette’s active-duty service in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 to 1976, followed by service in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1976 to 1996. The proclamation noted that Pinette was activated to deploy during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm before retiring from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant in 1996.

The proclamation also recognized Pinette’s service as a Veterans Services Officer and on the Wakefield Veterans Advisory Board, in which capacities he worked to connect veterans with earned benefits, such as housing, food and economic assistance.

Pinette was joined on stage as he received the proclamation by his wife, Carole, and his daughter, Kathleen. Another daughter, Caroline, passed away from cancer last year at age 28.

The keynote speaker for the afternoon ceremony was Marion Dennehy, Regional New England vice president of the Gold Star Wives of America and a member of the Wakefield Veterans Advisory Board.

Dennehy talked about the formation of the Gold Star Wives in in the aftermath of the Second World War for the purpose of supporting the widows of men who gave their lives in the war, a mission that continues to this day.

Dennehy spoke emotionally about the loss of her own husband, Richard Dennehy, a 1965 Wakefield High School graduate who joined the Navy and arrived in Vietnam just in time for the Tet Offensive.

He survived active duty only to succumb in 1996 at age 49 to a lung cancer that doctors linked to his exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used extensively during the Vietnam War.

Dennehy talked of the honorable service of men like her husband who come home from war only to fall to its effects years later.

Also speaking at yesterday’s ceremony at the Galvin were Town Council Chair Mehreen Butt, State Representatives Donald Wong and Kate Lipper-Garabedian along with State Senator Jason Lewis.

Volunteers read the names of 151 Wakefield residents who died while serving their country in all wars. After each name was read, Lt. Sean Curran struck the Wakefield Fire Department’s ceremonial bell in honor of their sacrifice.

Wakefield Memorial High School student Zachariah Baumhardt sang the National Anthem and John Bohling and Tom Collins of the American Legion led the Pledge of Allegiance. The invocation and benediction were provided by Rev. Bob Leroe, USA Chaplain (Ret) from the First Parish Congregational Church. “Taps” was performed by WMHS students Caroline Dill and Andrew Heath.

Veterans Advisory Board Chairman Paul Cancelliere served as master of ceremonies for the afternoon program.

The West Side Social Club’s morning observance got underway at 10 a.m. under sunny skies at Moulton Park.

Bill Bloom served as master of ceremonies for the morning event. He observed that freedom is the reason that we honor the war dead.

“Freedom is a gift bestowed on us by generations of men and women who were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Bloom said.

Town Council chair Mehreen Butt spoke of the need to remember those who died fighting for our country. She spoke of her Tufts University classmate, U.S. Army Capt. Benjamin A. Sklaver. Sklaver was one of two soldiers killed when they were attacked by a suicide bomber in Murcheh, Afghanistan, on October 2, 2009.

During a 2007 deployment to the Horn of Africa, Sklaver founded the ClearWater Initiative, a charitable organization dedicated to providing clean water to populations affected by natural or man-made humanitarian emergencies.

Butt said that Sklaver was a humanitarian who “saw the Army as a way to do greater good.”

The keynote speaker at the WSSC ceremonies was retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tobias Hoxie.

Hoxie talked about how he came to join the military. He said that he was college bound, entering his senior year of high school in Westerly, RI when the 9/11 attacks happened. He switched gears and told his guidance counselor he wanted to join the military. He said that he had enough credits to graduate early and by the following March he was in boot camp.

Hoxie, served in the U.S. Navy for nine years, first as a Missile Technician (MT) aboard the USS Nevada, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (2003-2007) where he completed seven nuclear deterrent patrols. From 2008 to 2011, his second assignment, Hoxie was stationed in Silverdale, WA at the Bangor Sub Base at the Explosives Handling Wharf.

After his honorable discharge, Hoxie remained close to the Navy as a civilian where he worked at the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Bath Maine, as a Protocol Officer and IT Management Analyst. Later he returned to Bangor WA to work for Lockheed Martin, as an Operations Supervisor. Presently, Hoxie is the Manufacturing Supervisor at ThermoFisher Scientific, in Chelmsford MA.

Hoxie thanked all those who came out yesterday to honor veterans and those who continue to serve.

The WSSC once again re-dedicated the 29 trees around Moulton Park to fallen heroes. As each name was read, Greenwood School third-grader Sadie Carlino placed a red rose at the corresponding memorial plaque along the first base line in the infield.