by Dave Warner

The annual Memorial Day Ceremony was held on Monday morning at 11 am at Eastern Park, across from the Library.

Donnie Bronson led off the ceremony by welcoming everyone, and said, “Thank you so much for coming to our Memorial Day event. Once again we come here to remember our fallen comrades from past wars and we remember their families. You kids, thank you. You gave up your day off to come here.”

Bronson then read the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, which remembered the Great War, WWI. He read:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Mayor Mark Blask said, “I think it’s easy on Memorial Day to get lost in the numbers. The bigger the number, things along the way become less important, and when you talk about deaths in the military, that’s something we need to fight against. Six hundred and sixty thousand people have died serving their country.”

He went on to remark that we lost more than 4,000 soldiers during the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam, or Battle of Sharpsburg in 1862. From D-Day June 6, 1944, until the end of August that same year, 28,000 American fighters lost their lives. “When you hear those numbers, it’s easy to sort of say, OK that’s a big number and that seems important.”

Blask thought that it would be interesting to mention several individual stories from the Revolutionary War until Afghanistan. “We think about what thread was woven through those 252 years. Their volunteer service. They knew what they were getting into. The stakes were high, and yet, they fought.”

The Mayor continued with a story about the Sullivan Brothers from World War II. Five brothers that signed up to fight with the requirement that they all be stationed together. “This story doesn’t get told very often.”

Blask had attended the commissioning of a new destroyer back in 1997 while stationed in Brunswick Maine, that bore the name ‘The Sullivans’. It was the first time that a ship had been named after more than one person and that’s where he learned the story.

“I got to talk to some of the people there. The Sullivans,” he stated. They told him the brothers were on a light cruiser. “It’s a very fast ship, that’s not very strong because it’s fast.”

The brothers were in the Battle of Guadalcanal and they got hit by a Japanese destroyer and as they were limping back to port, they were hit again by a Japanese torpedo. “Five hundred and fifty people were on the ship and 400 of them died instantly, 150 were in the water, and 10 ended up living,” he said.

None of the Sullivans lived. “Three of them died instantly, one of them died a day later as he hung on, and four days later, Frank, the oldest of the five boys, just left his lifeboat. He had had enough.”

Blask said, “It’s a sad tale, but Memorial Day is a sad time. Today we remember.  We remember the first, we remember the last, we certainly remember the 660,000 in between, and we remember the Sullivans.”