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Berkshire County Reflects on Memorial Day
Staff Reports, iBerkshires
05:30PM / Monday, May 30, 2022
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North Adams residents gathered at the Veterans Memorial after a parade downtown.

North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey stands with State Rep. John Barrett III.

Piper Jacobs gave the Gettysburg Address and was presented with the George Angeli Award by Police Officer Taylor Kline.

Monday marked Williamstown's first Memorial Day parade since 2019.

The Dalton Rifle Team shot off the 21 gun salute in Lanesborough.

Lanesborough also held a Memorial Day Parade.

The Hoosac Valley Marching Band marched in both the Adams and Cheshire Memorial Day parades.

Adams kids were invited to ride their bikes in the parade.

Cheshire volunteer fire firefighters were part of the Memorial Day ceremony.

Before the ceremony in Pittsfield, there was a parade, a Memorial Day tradition that the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered for the last few years

Director of Veterans' Services John Herrera was the master of ceremonies in Pittsfield.

In Lenox, the procession began at the Church on the Hill, proceeded to the monument, and concluded at St. Anne's Cemetery.

In North Adams Navy veteran Jodie Pajak told of her grandfather's harrowing experience in World War II.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Communities throughout Berkshire County gathered to recognize Memorial Day, and in North Adams, residents remembered Michael Robert DeMarsico II, who was killed in action a decade ago.
It's been ten years since North Adams lost a resident in service to the nation, Mayor Jennifer Macksey reminded the crowd gathered at the Veterans Memorial on Monday morning. Michael Robert DeMarsico II was only 20 years old when he was killed by an explosive device while serving in Afghanistan.
"We are reminded that Memorial Day is actually a solemn day. A day set aside for remembrance, honoring and mourning our United States military personnel who have died," said Macksey. "It calls upon us as citizens to remember their courage and all of those who perished while serving our nation, whether here in our country or battle abroad, sacrificing themselves for our own liberties. Reminding us of the price of freedom. And this annual Day of Remembrance, we also acknowledge the impact and ripple effect of the death of a soldier who was part of our own community."
DeMarsico was known and loved in the community before he realized his dream of joining the military. His sacrifice came 44 years after the loss of another native son, Peter W. Foote III, in Vietnam.
"They are among other brave military personnel who served fought and died for our country. Their names carved in our city's Veterans Memorial Wall and held in our hearts forever. And finally, let's not forget and salute our living soldiers," Macksey said. "Those who continue to serve; we are so grateful for their dedication to our country. Their missions, past present and future safeguard our freedoms."
The gathering, sporting small American flags passed out during the parade courtesy of the Sons of American Legion Squadron 125, also heard from Navy veteran Jodie Pajak, a past commander of the Massachusetts American Legion, who told of her grandfather's harrowing experience in World War II.
Roy Van Fossen was 17 and working on a farm when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He journeyed back to his family home to get permission to enlist. He joined the Navy and was serving on the USS Preston, a destroyer, during the Third Battle of Savo Island at Guadalcanal. The Preston went down with more than half its crew but had been critical in the fight to successfully take out Japanese units and protect Henderson Field.
Van Fossen spent hours floating among coconuts, from which he was able to get some water, before being rescued. Pajak said he had inspired her to join the service, and that he had no regrets about putting his life on the line but rarely spoke of it, feeling that the past was done.
"What I hope you take away from this story today is how gifted you are to be born in this country. And when I say gifted I mean our forefathers fought, served, put their lives on the line in order to give our next generation freedom to choose and to have a peace of mind at home," she said.
Drury eighth-grader Piper Jacobs gave the Gettysburg Address and was presented with the George Angeli Award by Police Officer Taylor Kline. Angeli was a North Adams police officer and Navy veteran who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while on duty in 1960. The Rev. David Anderson gave the opening and closing prayers, asking those attending to reflect if they were "living a life worthy of the sacrifices that have been made for me?"
American Legion Post 125 Cmdr. Mitchell Keil was master of ceremonies, and thanked those who helped bring the event together; Joseph Zustra Jr. of the Veterans of Foreign Wards and Dennis St. Pierre of the American Legion placed the wreath; the Drury band played music during the parade and ceremony. 
More photos can be found here.
In Williamstown, Wayne Soares made the sacrifice of wars fought in distant lands very personal for attendees at Monday's Field Park ceremony.
Soares, an advocate for veterans and chronicler of their stories, shared a series of recollections he has gathered over

The color guard at Field Park stands at attention.
the years with the crowd that gathered for American Legion Post 152's annual ceremony.
"I'm reminded today of Pvt. Jerry Anacosta, United States Army, 99 years old, sharing a powerful memory on Christmas Eve at the Battle of the Bulge, recovering from a shrapnel wound in a field hospital," Soares said. "Telling me of a badly wounded soldier next to him who looked exactly like his kid brother.
"After the young man died several hours later, he was placed in a tent that served as a makeshift morgue and was the only body in there. Private Anacosta then asked his captain if he could go and sit with the boy, so he wouldn't be alone on Christmas Eve. Telling me through heavy sobs, many years later, it is a moment he will never forget."
Soares was the featured speaker at Monday's ceremony, choosing as his topic, "Tribute to Our Greatest Generation."
"I'm reminded of 98-year-old Mabel Johnson, first lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in the European theater, telling me she will never forget the screams and painful moans of the injured soldiers that she treated and how every time she hears the national anthem, it sends chills up her spine thinking of the young soldiers who never made it home and what they fought for," Soares said.
Today, nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, Soares is doing his part to make sure others remember those sacrifices.
"These are the stories, ladies and gentlemen, that I have been so privileged to hear and to write about, so that no one – absolutely no one – will ever forget what each one of our Greatest Generation of World War II veterans has done for our country," Soares said.
Monday marked the first time that Williamstown's American Legion has held a full parade and ceremony since 2019.
In addition to the lost Memorial Day events, the COVID-19 pandemic cost the local Legionnaires a chance to celebrate the post's 100th anniversary in 2020. In recognition of that milestone, Cmdr. Thomas Webb on Monday read a list of Post 152 members who have served the post for more than half of its existence.
That list included Mike Kennedy, Bud Kornn, Tom Agnew, Paul Bratcher, Dan Gliwski, Bill King, Dan Lacosse, Peter Lepage, John Notsley, Robert Nugent, Doug Rickert and Lee Rhodes.
In a return to pre-pandemic form, the day began with a parade that kicked off at the bottom of Spring Street and turned onto Main Street (Route 7) before arriving at the Field Park rotary for the formal festivities.
The parade once again included units of local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Cal Ripken baseball league and the Mount Greylock Regional School band.
The band provided one musical aspect to the day. Another was furnished by Mount Greylock alumna Jaeden King, who sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful."
And longtime Mount Greylock music teacher, Lyndon Moors, who retired in 2020, was recognized by Post 152 for his service to past parades and the town.
"Lyndon's father, PFC Donald Moors, was a North Adams native who served in the Army during World War II and the Korean conflict, earning a Purple Heart," Webb said. "It is in his honor and in the honor of all fallen heroes that Lyndon plays Taps at remembrances each year and will play for us again this year.
"At this time, we are presenting him with a certificate of appreciation for his years of dedication to Williamstown and the surrounding communities on Memorial Day and many other occasions. In appreciation of his commitment to music and participation in our annual event, the Legion will be providing the Lyndon Moors Music Scholarship, which will be set up for the next three years for a Mount Greylock student who has shown a desire to continue their education in the field of music."
More photos can be found here.

First Sgt. David Levesque give the keynote address in Adams.
In Adams, 1st Sgt. David Levesque urged residents, town officials and others to have a happy Memorial Day at the town's annual ceremony. 
"This is a huge debate as to whether or not this is an appropriate sentiment," he said. "Veterans who have lost buddies say 'No way, this is a full day of somber and sorrow and remembrance,' while others would say it's perfectly acceptable." 
Levesque, who served in the Iraq War, spoke as the ceremony's keynote speaker in front of more than 100 residents at Maple Street Cemetery. He said, despite the sadness, the day can bring to some, he tries to take time to both mourn and celebrate. 
"For me, I reflect on remembering my fallen comrades in the morning on Memorial Day," he said. "But I know my friends, my buddies, would be saying, 'OK, it's noontime,’ it's time for celebration of their lives with the beginning of summer, barbecues and cocktails."
Levesque shared his memory of taking his oath as a soldier to protect the United States. He said he remembers the day 43 years ago. 
"I remember feeling a sense of patriotism, along with a sense of fear, thinking, 'What did I just do,'" he said. "But I also felt a sense of pride and belonging to a group of special kind of people ... We made that oral commitment so everyone would know what the country means to us and what we will do to defend its values and our way of life." 
During his speech, Levesque spoke about the many responsibilities of soldiers both on and off the battlefield. 
"The job that I'm given to do, I will do," he said. "Even if it costs me my life, I will do it…I repair hospitals, schools and homes. I help rebuild smiles for people that I may never have met before. This, too, is part of my job." 
Master of ceremonies Paul Hutchinson thanked the residents, veterans and others for taking part in the parade and ceremony. 
"Freedom is not free. Each generation must answer freedom's call," he said. "As they say in the veterans' community: all gave some, some gave all. It's those who gave all that we remember today." 
Hutchinson also thanked town officials and others who worked to put the ceremony together, including the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator Jay Green and American Legion Post 160 Chair John Bordeaux and Joe Martin. 
Retired Deacon Greg LaFreniere of St. John Paul II Parish gave the open and closing prayers and benediction. The Hoosac Valley High School band performed.
"Never let us forget those who played so terrible a price to ensure that freedom, our freedom, would indeed be our legacy," he said. "Though their names may fade with the passing of generations, may we never forget what they have done." 
More photos can be found here.
In Cheshire, more than 100 residents were in attendance for the Memorial Day ceremony at Town Hall. 

Cheshire Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi was the master of ceremonies.
Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi was the master of ceremonies and asked residents to remember and honor the veterans who have served the community. 
"The Cheshire veterans who gave their lives must never be forgotten," she said. "It is our responsibility to continue to honor them and remind all coming generations of the ultimate sacrifice they made for us and for our freedom." 
Francesconi urged residents not to be complacent and said people must work to protect freedoms and prevent them to be given away. 
"We can only truly thank those who died to protect our freedoms by upholding the ideals they were fighting to protect. ... We cannot allow our nation, the land so many gave their lives for and so many still want to protect, to be undermined," she said. 
The Rev. Paul Norman of St. Mary of the Assumption Church gave the opening prayer and benediction.  
"We come before you to honor all of our military personnel who have fought valiantly throughout the history of our great nation, both living and deceased," he said. "We ask that you may bring healing and solace to those soldiers who have fought and are living here with us."
The Hoosac Valley High School band performed the national anthem and taps. 
More photos can be found here.
Lanesborough held it's Memorial Day Ceremony on Sunday, and Curtis Asch called for unity among all Americans in his 

Curtis Asch is the keynote speaker in Lanesborough
keynote address. 
"I wish I could stand here and tell you exactly how it can be done, but I can't. I can only tell you that it must be done," he said. "We must work harder to come together to earn the sacrifices of the men and women we memorialize today. We can, and we must do better."
Asch spoke before a crowd of about 60 residents, veterans and town officials in Center Cemetery following the parade. He was also the keynote speaker for the ceremony in 2017 and said, at the time, he sensed a growing divide among Americans. 
"I confessed then that, in my 45 years, I have never seen our country so very torn apart as it felt back then, five years ago, in 2017," he said. "I said then what I will say to you now, that the men and women lying in graves like these across this countryside and in unmarked graves across the world, did not die for this America ... they did not die for us to stand idly by and watch this country turn inward against itself over us every and any disagreements."
The American people, Asch said, must come together despite their differences and have thoughtful and difficult conversations. He shared a story of a friend and fellow teacher who he said disagrees with him on the vast majority of political issues.
"We differ on pretty much every political and social topic imaginable. And I dare say we hold each other in the highest esteem," he said.  "Somehow, we are able to talk about things like immigration, like COVID, like abortion, like school shootings and racism and America. All the while still enjoying each other's company, valuing each other's points of view. This has become a rarity in this country and in this community."
Asch said he still believes people can work together and work through the divisions in America. 
"This is still America and it is on us; this community, every community in this country to join hands in mending our common fabric. In fixing what has been broken and in protecting what is most vulnerable," he said. 
Select Board member Gordon Hubbard urged residents to think about the meaning of Memorial Day. 
"Remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We recognize the sacrifices families of service people ie equality," he said. "... I wish you all the very best Memorial Day, and I hope that when you hear the word freedom this weekend, it will take on a greater meaning for you, and you will commit yourselves to doing just one small thing to support a veteran, their family and or their charities."
The Rev. Richard Wilson provided the opening and closing prayers and benediction for the ceremony. Robert Riley was the event's marshal and Town Administrator Joshua Lang served as master ceremonies. 
"I'm honored to stand with you here, as a veteran and a patriot, to pay tribute and remember our fallen heroes. We're here to renew our national promise through the service and sacrifice of those who lay down their life brought us the freedoms that we enjoy here at home," he said. "Not just today, but each and every day in our lives we should continuously remember the names and the stories of those who committed to defending our way of life."
The Mount Greylock Regional School Band performed taps and the national anthem. 
More than 100 people gathered in the Pittsfield Cemetery on Monday to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their

Mike Bradley sings the National Anthem.
Keynote speaker William Sturgeon emphasized that this holiday is a solemn day for so many people who have lost family members and friends. As a Vietnam veteran who served in the 104th Airborne Division, he still remembers fellow soldiers who died at a young age.
"As I stand here at 75 years old, I still see the faces of those whom I served with in Vietnam. They never saw their 21st birthday, they will always be 18," he said.  
"I know this day has become a special shopping day for many.  A special car sales and retail sales and family picnics and other celebrations to welcome summer," he said. "I want to thank you all for showing your gratitude and respect today and by coming here and giving tribute to those who have fallen so that we can enjoy this day. Now go forward this day and enjoy your lives because that is what these fallen heroes would have wanted us to do. They died so that we could live in peace and freedom."
Before the ceremony, there was a parade that began at City Hall, a Memorial Day tradition that the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered for the last few years.
Mayor Linda Tyer, who tested positive for COVID-19, was unable to attend the ceremony, but City Council President Peter Marchetti spoke on her behalf.
"Gathering here once a year to remember is not enough," he said. "We must remember that we need to remember them every day for the sacrifices that they have made, and the sacrifices that we as a nation have endured. Today is a solemn day of remembrance for those who gave their ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. May we always mark this day with prayers and gratitude."
Director of Veteran Services John Herrera, who was the master of ceremonies, signaled a moment of silence for those who were killed in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., in reference to two mass shootings that recently occurred.
A member from the American Legion Post 68, the Korean War Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448, Jewish War Veterans Post 75, Marine Corps League Det. 137, and the Vietnam Veterans of America threw poppies into an urn to honor the 180 veterans in the county who died since the last Memorial Day.
The national anthem was sung by Mike Bradley, and attendees were treated to an additional music element at the event.
Special guest Leah Najimy performed the veterans' version of "Hallelujah" while accompanying herself on the ukelele.  The song is credited to Sailor Jerri.
Najimy comes from a military family, as her grandfather Charles "Chuck" Najimy served in the Marine Corps and her uncle Mark Bilotta served in the Army during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Taps were played by members of the Pittsfield High School band, The volley was carried out by VVA Chapter 65 honor guard detail led by Tyrone Belanger, and VFW Post 448 Cmdr. Arnold Perras led the posting of the colors.
The ceremony's invocation and benediction were delivered by Douglas Mann, pastor of Berkshire Hills Baptist Church, veteran Lenwood "Woody" Vaspra read Gov. Baker's Memorial Day Proclamation, and veteran Mike Ancora read the General John A. Logan Memorial Day order.
More photos can be found here.

Dalton Boy Scouts participated in the Ceremony.
Dalton honored and celebrated the lives of fallen veterans during its Memorial Day parade and ceremony at the Main Street Cemetery. 
Wahconah Regional High School student Madilyn Reichers was one of the three students to speak at the ceremony.
Reichers spoke of her experience with her grandfather, World War II veteran Robert F. Vincelette, who died when she was 5. She said she understood the pain of that loss and sympathizes with those who lost a family member in the war.  
"Although I don’t know how it feels to fight in a war, I do understand how it feels to lose someone close to you. It leaves a stone in your stomach and a hole in your heart, and I wouldn’t wish the feeling of grief upon my worst enemy," Reichers said.
Student Quinn Walton also spoke and expressed the importance of Memorial Day by sharing her experience with her grandfather, Vietnam veteran Wayne Walton. 
She quoted her grandfather and said, "Quinn, I survived. Memorial Day is about those who weren’t so lucky. It’s an opportunity to honor those who gave their lives." 
Walton urged people to listen to the stories of their veteran family members. For those who do not have a particular person to honor she advised people to "practice the values of soldiers who gave their lives"
Student Luke Dicicco said he has an uncle serving at a base in Taiwan. He brought with him his great-grandfather James Sullivan's helmet that he wore in the war. It had engravings of all the different boundaries he visited. 
Master of ceremonies Tom Callahan thanked the residents for joining the first parade and ceremony held in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
American Legion and Navy veteran Pete Morrisey and Commander Robert Dasset conducted the "Empty Chair" ceremony to honor the veterans who did not make it back home. 
The Rev. Christopher Maletest, a pastor at St. Agnes' Parish gave the invocation.  American Legion Riders, Boy Scouts and the Dalton cheerleaders were also in attendance.
More photos can be found here
Residents lined the streets of downtown Lenox to mark Memorial Day with a parade and ceremony in front of the town's
War Monument.
The procession began at the Church on the Hill, proceeded to the monument, and concluded at St. Anne's Cemetery, which was filled with American flags to mark the graves of veterans.
Keynote speaker Veteran Christa Ames, who was deployed twice to the Arabian Gulf, spoke of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
"We are fortunate that the wars we fight today are in far off lands, keeping us somewhat removed from the destruction of at all, other countries are not so lucky, as evidenced by checking the news cycle on any given day, which highlights ongoing wars and conflicts all around the globe," she said.
"The recent war in Ukraine is at the forefront of most Americans' minds these days. It's hard to imagine sitting in a quiet cafe or restaurant with friends one day and then being invaded by a hostile troop the next. For many European countries on or close to the Russian border, there has been concern that they too could fall prey to Russian aggression," she said. "While the Ukrainians were not able to prevent the start of this invasion, they have fought back and demonstrated their grit and resolve and love of country and have made the Russians rethink their strategy."
Ames said she has been asked if she worries that the U.S. could fall prey to such a conflict and always replies "I don't know" while recognizing its dedication to preserving freedom.
"While I do believe that democracies everywhere demand and deserve constant work and vigilance, I also believe that Americans have shown our grit and resolve and love of country for centuries," she said.
"The men and women in the US Armed Forces have proven to the world their willingness to fight and die to preserve our freedom and way of life," she said. "The men and women we honor today made sure that message was sent loud and clear across the globe time and time again deterring any aggressors from entering our country. No one should underestimate the fortitude of a free nation."
Commander of the VFW 12079 Nick Felix emphasized that Memorial Day is a solemn day to recognize people who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
He pointed out that the flags representing veterans buried in the cemetery symbolize an extraordinary story of a regular person from Lenox.
"Every flag you see is an extraordinary story," Felix said. "And that to me, is what it's really all about."
The "Star-Spangled Banner" was sung by Jeanne Schnackenberg at the War Monument and the procession was closed with taps and a volley in the cemetery.
"It's so heartwarming that we're all able to do this in person again without the masks and see everyone together," Selectboard Chair Marybeth Mitts said. "It's such an important time of the year when we do remember the people who have fought and died for our rights, so it's pretty special."
More photos can be found here.
iBerkshire staff writers Tammy Daniels, Steven Dravis, Sabrina Damms, Brittany Polito and Brian Rhodes contributed to this report. 
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