June 26, 2017

No Parade (Again) for Old Lyme but Indoor Ceremony Still Exudes Memorial Day Spirit

Despite the wet weather causing the cancellation of Old Lyme’s traditional Memorial Day parade for the second year in a row, more than 100 people still turned out for the Memorial Day ceremony held in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School’s auditorium Monday morning.

From left to right, Commander Bill Appleby, American Legion Post 41’s Veteran of the Year Mervin Roberts and the Rev. Mark Robinson of Saint Ann’s in Old Lyme.

William Appleby (pictured above), Commander of American Legion Post 41, was Master of Ceremonies.  The ceremony began with the Invocation given by the Reverend Joseph C. Ashe, pastor of Christ The King Roman Catholic Church in Old Lyme, which was then followed by the arrival of colors into the auditorium.  All serving and former members of the armed forces, including the Lyme-Old Lyme veterans assembled on the stage, saluted the colors as they were marched down the stairs of the auditorium.

Under the leadership of Choral Director Kristine Pekar, Lyme-Old Lyme High School’s Select Singers followed with a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

The winners of the American Legion/VFW Essay Contest for fifth graders in Lyme and Old Lyme read their essays titled, “What Memorial Day Means to Me.” Appleby told the winners that although the rain had denied them the chance to be driven Lyme Street in an vintage Mustang in the Memorial Day parade, they would have a second opportunity during the Sound View Independence Day parade on Saturday, July  3.

Abby Hale, who attends Mile Creek School was awarded the bronze medal as Second Runner-up, while Jack Porter, who also attends Mile Creek, was the First Runner-up and received the silver medal from Commander Appleby.

Emma Baehr, a Lyme Consolidated School student, was the gold medal winner.  Her essay ended with the poignant reminder that all those who had given the ultimate sacrifice had done so in order that, “We may continue to enjoy our lives and enjoy our freedom that they fought so hard to keep.”  Each of these students received a medal, a proclamation from the American Legion, a monetary award and, “most significantly,” in Appleby’s words, will also have a flag flown in their honor over the US Capitol in Washington DC.

Performing again and displaying extraordinary talent, the Select Singers then sang “America The Beautiful.”

The Reverend Mark Robinson of Saint Ann’s Episcopal Church in Old Lyme gave the Benediction remembering those, “for whom the trumpets have sounded on the other side,” and urging that “Their sacrifices here help to establish the freedom for which they died.”

Mervin Roberts, Chaplain of the Fire Department, then gave the homily, which he explained is something defined as “a philosophical dissertation grounded on a Biblical or ethical subject.”

He commented that during the traditional parade and post-parade ceremony, “We celebrate our heroic military, mourn our departed, offer prayers, honor our ancestors, award prizes and enjoy a parade.”

He asked a little later in his homily, “So what did I neglect to mention?” and answered his own question with the words, “Plenty. Lives cut short, sometimes needlessly, heroes forgotten, relatives and friends gone.”  Roberts went on to explain the history of Memorial Day, which used to be called “Decoration Day” at that time when July 4 was known as “Declaration Day.” The former “got started around 1863 during the Civil War.’ and, “… began, get this, in the Confederate States to honor rebel soldiers who had died in battle.”

A smiling Mervin Roberts (left), Chaplain of Old Lyme’s Fire Department and American Legion Post 41’s Veteran of the Year 2016-17, stands with the Reverend Mark Robinson of Saint Ann’s.

Noting, “Freedom in principle is great but in practice it’s certainly elusive and it’s certainly not cheap,” Roberts added, “The dozen cemeteries of Old Lyme serve to remind all of us of the price that has been paid to keep us free.”

Roberts concluded, “There were some who gave their lives for causes no longer popular, for wars unnecessarily fought or poorly led. Wars were also fought for a concept now often swept under the carpet, the concept that freedom is worth fighting for, actually giving one’s life to preserve, and the corollary to that is that freedom without justice is not true freedom.”

Veteran of the Year Mervin Roberts is seated  second from left while everyone in the auditorium honors him with a standing ovation.

Commander Appleby then introduced the 2016-17 Veteran of the Year, which was none other than Mr. Roberts! Appleby quoted Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who had said at the dinner when the award was made, “Can anyone think of Old Lyme and not think of Mervin Roberts?” Following Appleby’s words, Roberts was given a warm and extended standing ovation by the audience

Wrapping up the proceedings, the traditional three-shot-volley was fired outside — but within earshot — of the auditorium, ‘Taps’ (with an echo) was played, and then the flag-bearers solemnly filed out of the auditorium while salutes were made.

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