With bowed heads, Marblehead pauses on Memorial Day

With Old Glory gracefully waving in the wind and heads bowed in reverence, Marblehead came together on Memorial Day to pay homage to those who made “the last full measure of devotion.”

 A Cub Scout from Pack 11 holds the American flag as the national anthem is played during the Memorial Day service at Memorial Park on May 29. CURRENT PHOTOS / NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD

Hundreds lined Marblehead’s old, narrow streets to watch the parade and descended upon Memorial Park and Waterside Cemetery for ceremonies under a flawless blue sky.

At Memorial Park, the parade’s grand marshal, Daniel Genis, 95, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, received hearty applause and cheers. Marblehead Veterans Agent David Rodgers called Memorial Day “the most expensive holiday on the calendar.”

“Every hot dog, every burger, every spin around the lake or drink with friends and family is a debt purchased by others,” said Rodgers behind a podium set up on Memorial Park, a crowd of red, white and blue before him. “This is not all about who serves. That day comes in November.”

John Blaisdell and his grandson, Wyatt, 2, cheer on the parade contingent during the Memorial Day Parade on May 29. 

He added, “This one is in honor of those who paid in life and blood.”

Rear Admiral J. Clarke Orzalli, a Nahant resident, was the Memorial Park ceremony’s principal speaker. He had a distinguished military career as the 45th shipyard commander at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard before he entered retirement.

“Believe me when I tell you that for Gold Star families every day is Memorial Day,” said Orzalli.  “Help them remember their loved ones. Help them remember that their sacrifice was not in vain. Help them remember that we have gratitude for their service and their sacrifice.”

Reading Gov. Maura Healey’s proclamation, state Rep. Jenny Armini supplied a history lesson on the origins of Memorial Day, which stretches back to the American Civil War. Southern and northern communities would decorate Confederate and Union veterans’ graves.

“After World War One, the nation came together again, to honor those who had fallen in the service of their country,” Armini said. “Renamed Memorial Day, the last Monday in May is when people remember and honor the memory of all men and women who fought and died in all American wars and conflicts.”

Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, read the honor roll, a list of Marblehead veterans who’ve died since the last Memorial Day.

At Waterside Cemetery, veterans and town officials placed wreaths near a reflection pool.

Francisco Ureña, the former Massachusetts secretary of veterans’ affairs and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, presided over the keynote at Waterside Cemetery.

“Today, we center ourselves on the true meaning of Memorial Day, the values we hold so dearly as a country, liberty, justice and democracy,” Ureña said. “When diplomacy fails, these rights are guaranteed by the willingness of citizens to risk their lives for their protection.”

He spoke to a certain Marblehead exceptionalism.

“In a town like Marblehead, we don’t have to go far to account for the price of freedom,” he said. “Our town is surrounded by historical events and people who shaped and helped to shape our country.” 

Veterans and officials kicked off Monday, casting wreaths and flowers into the ocean at Clark’s Landing.

Glover’s Regiment fired their muskets multiple times during observances. “Taps” was played, and Marblehead High School band performed the national anthem, which senior Griffen Collins also sang a cappella at Waterside Cemetery.

Observances culminated at the Old Town House, known as “Marblehead’s Cradle of Liberty,” where the nation’s flag was posted.

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