|Berkshire County Marks Memorial Day 2012|
|Staff Reports, iBerkshires|
08:27PM / Monday, May 28, 2012
LENOX, Mass. — Heidi Nutt had grown up in Lenox not thinking much about the military, or the sacrifices of military families.
"Never did I think I would marry a soldier, that I would live in Europe, and become a widow at 32," she said on Monday, her voice breaking. "On May 14, 2003, I lost my husband, my best friend, my home, my friends and a way of life I had learned to enjoy."
Sgt. David Nutt of the 101st Airborne Division was killed barely two months after being deployed for Iraq. He would leave behind his grieving widow and two young daughters, who now live in Lee.
Nutt, keynote speaker at Lenox's annual Memorial Day ceremony, struggled at times to talk about her husband through her tears. David Roche, a founding member of the Lenox VFW, stepped to her side at the podium, lending quiet support.
"Sgt. David Nutt was a quiet, gentle, hard-working man who loved his family, his country and his God," said Heidi Nutt. "He did his job with honor and grace."
Before leaving for Iraq, he told her that he was fighting to ensure his daughters would live in a free country. Since then, Nutt has had good days and bad, and expects they will continue for the rest of her life. But she's proud of the gold star flag and license plate she has, which mark the sacrifice her family has made for the nation.
"Thank you to my hero, Sgt. David Nutt, who gave the ultimate sacrifice," she said, tears in her eyes. "The next time you see that [gold star] plate on a car, remember the sacrifices that family gave up so you can live free and enjoy your family."
It was a sentiment echoed across the county in towns large and small as communities remembered the fallen with parades and memorials under a brilliant blue sky.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, speaking at the ceremonies in Adams, said the Monday holiday has become a time for cookouts and family gatherings.
"You are here because you recognize this day, as it serves as both a tribute to those who have fallen and an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to the values they died defending," she said to those gathered at the Maple Street Cemetery. Veterans units, the Hoosac Valley High School marching band, Adams Alerts, police and other organizations had first marched along Summer and Park streets before entering cemetery.
With the Mount Greylock War Memorial, dedicated to the state's fallen, standing in the distance, Cariddi spoke of the more than 1 million American servicemen and -women who have died from the American Revolution to the war on terrorism.
"It is never over. Wars may end but their legacies are left and the pain of their absence endures, and there is little we can do to repay these men and women and their families except for us to set aside a day, this day, to remember," she said. "It is our duty to continue to the honor the fallen and to give respect to the soldiers who are still with us."
Among the speakers at this year's observances was one about to offer the "faithful duty" that the representative referenced in her address. Ellen Rowe, a senior at Hoosac Valley, will enter the Marine Corps after graduation.
She gave last year's Gettsburg Address as a junior, and repeated her performance on Monday not only in Adams but in the afternoon in Cheshire, as well.
The Cheshire parade took the usual route through the town center and up to the memorial at the cemetery on West Mountain Road, with the Hoosac Valley marching band again providing the music.
Selectmen Chairwoman Carol Francesconi discussed the importance of celebrating Memorial Day and paying respect to the troops.
"We in this country owe a great deal of gratitude to those who lost their lives so we could be free," Francesconi said.
The Rev. David Raymond of St. Mary's Church led the prayers and Cheshire Elementary School pupil Nathan White read his essay that reflected on the history of the holiday.
Pittsfield's keynote speaker was Spc. Peter Vosburgh, who spent a year in Iraq — returning in 2010 — and is preparing to be deployed again to Qatar.
"Memorial Day is not just a day off from work. It is not just an excuse to get together with friends and have a barbecue. Today is the day for the citizens of the United States to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to service this great nation," Vosburgh said. "I had the privilege of seeing everyone I serve with come home as a full unit."
Vosburgh recalled the sacrifice he and other soldiers made in not being able to be with their families and have gatherings, but said how fortunate they are to be able to see them now. It is the families that "carry the burden," too, he said.
Mayor Daniel Bianchi remembered his youth, when he would watch the Memorial Day parade, but those veterans are all gone now.
"They have called their last roll call. They have fallen out since their last roll call. Since then thousands, every day, every week, from other campaigns fall out after their last roll call. We are here to honor those in Pittsfield that have fallen out and taken their final role call," Bianchi said.
Bianchi received a long applause when he said that every day he prays for the families that have a blue or gold star — banners deployment or casualty — hanging in their windows.
The ceremony at the cemetery featured the annual roll call, when veterans organizations drop poppies on a wreath to represent each of the veterans whohave died since last year's holiday. A total of 85 veterans were honored.
Savoy celebrated Memorial Day with its annual Fire Truck Parade. Various fire departments from around the county brought a truck to parade down Main Street.
The short parade was followed by a picnic at the town firehouse with food and entertainment. Prior to the parade and service was held at the Baptist Church.
In Clarksburg, Nancy Girard recalled how her family had been exposed to her father's nightmares of surviving Pearl Harbor, just a glimpse of what military men and women have had to suffer in defending this nation.
"The military's focus, since our beginning, is freedom, the protection of our citizens," she said to the crowd gathered in front of Town Hall. "Despite our arguments and debates, we support the right to do so as many nations do not have such freedom."
It was important be thankful for "those who have given so much of their body mind and spirit," said Girard. "Do not be discouraged, you are not forgotten."
The ceremony in Clarksburg included a short march from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post to the town offices with the Fire Department, veterans units and children. Laura Boudreau sang the national anthem and the Golden Tones and Clarksburg School band also provided music.
In North Adams, the annual parade started a little late, but made its way down American Legion Drive, Main and Eagle streets to the memorial. Mayor Richard Alcombright welcomed those gathered and reminded them to think of those still overseas serving.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Glenn St. Pierre delivered the keynote address, reflecting on his relationship with his father, who served in the South Pacific in World War II.
"I never had any idea I too would visit all these places myself," said Pierre, a cousin of master of ceremonies Dennis St. Pierre of Frank R. Stiles Post 125 American Legion.
Chelsea Lomartire was this year's recipient of the George Angeli Award, given to a student in Grade 8 in memory of the North Adams police officer who died in the line of duty. The recipient traditionally gives the Gettysburg Address.
Reminders of the cost of war were apparent on this Memorial Day, never more so than at Lenox, which has come together to aid another of its own. Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Stringer of Lenox Dale was wounded in Afghanistan in February and the Lenox VFW, with the help of local police departments, came up with a rubber wristband fundraiser to benefit the young Marine's family that's brought in donations from as far away as California.
"Originally, we thought we'd sell 500-600 and make a few bucks for needs that the family is going to have," said VFW Cmdr. Sean Ward. "I think our second batch of 500-600, we were out in about three days."
While rallying around Stringer was a positive reflection on the community, Ward said this day really isn't about the veterans or active duty military.
"The people that should be applauded are those in the cemetery," he said, urging the youngsters in the crowd to take time to visit the graves dating from the Revolution to Vietnam.
"Remember that this day ... people like David Nutt, this is what this day is about," said Ward.