The children read poems recognizing Memorial Day during the ceremony.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Brayton Elementary school students were asked to reflect on veterans’ bravery.
The pupils attended the school's annual Memorial Day program Friday and Superintendent Barbara Malkas asked the students to reflect on what it means to be brave.
"We know courage is not the absence of fear. It is moving and taking action even in the presence of fear and that is what all of the members of our five military branches do every day," she said.
"There are young men and women all over the world doing work to protect our freedom here in the United States."
The children read poems and introduced guest speakers during the event. State Rep. John Barrett III was invited to the stage to give opening remarks.
Barrett reflected on the deaths of residents Peter Foote who was killed during the Vietnam War in 1968 and Michael DeMarsico II who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.
He recalled dedicating the skating rink to Foote in his tenure as mayor and the hundreds of residents that lined the streets when DeMarsico’s body was returned home.
"Just remember, they made this country safer and protected our democracy and that is what Memorial Day means to me," Barrett said. "It is a lot about memories and as we get older we think a lot more about that."
Barrett went to say it was important to him as mayor to make sure the city had a proper monument honoring the veterans.
"We can make sure everybody from this city who served is recognized so someday you young ones who are out there can go and see your family members names on the memorial," he said. "Stop by the memorial and say a prayer and say thank you and I hope we never have to expand that memorial but unfortunately we probably will."
Sgt. First Class Michael McCarron was next to speak and said as a retired soldier who served 23 years, Memorial Day leaves him with a somber feeling.
"It is hard not to think about soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice from my first tour to the last the sacrifices those made is never far from my mind," he said.
"Soldiers like myself feel a deep anguish on Memorial Day as we think about those who did not return."
McCarron asked the students to visit a cemetery this weekend and think about these veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
"Every soldier who leaves for war thinks about returning to loved ones. Everyone who gets deployed counts the days until they can return," he said. "On Memorial Day we honor those who did not return home. So take time to walk around the cemetery and observe all of the flags. Take time to read the inscriptions on the headstones and thank that soldier for their service."
In between speeches, a small group of students from the band played patriotic music.
Next to speak was State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli who spoke about his father's best friend whom he is named after. Pignatelli said Smitty was killed at the age of 19 overseas and his father never truly overcame it.
Michael McCarron told the students what Memorial Day means to him as someone who served for 23 years.
"My dad lost his best friend at the age of 19 and my father, until the day he died, had a pain in his heart for the loss of his best friend," he said. "I love being with the veterans because they all have their own story about pain and sacrifice."
Pignatelli said he never thought his father had closure with his friend's death so he found his grave site in Milton and brought his father there at the age of 82. After 62 years he finally got to properly say goodbye.
He said on the way home his father told stories about Smitty that he never heard. Pignatelli said he thought it was important that these stories are shared.
"Look at the faces of all the veterans that are in the room today go visit the cemetery when you go home today and talk to your parents and grandparents," he said. "Learn a little bit more about your own family history and their service to America."
Malkas gave closing remarks and she asked the students to try to give back this weekend at one of the various Memorial Day events and services
"Do what is expected of you selflessly and with courage because the opposite of courage is not fear it is selfishness," she said.
"If you want to be brave and if you want to live up to the courage of these men and women here that have protected us then we need to not be selfish and we need to act on behalf of each other in the face of fear."
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