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Great Barrington remembers, honors those who served

“Memorial Day is an emotional time,” said co-organizer Elizabeth Shaker. “I know the weather forecast looks bad, but we’re going to keep marching. The veterans did under bad circumstances, and so will we."

Great Barrington — Memorial Day has been observed as a federal holiday since 1868, honoring members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died while serving in the military. Following a one-year hiatus, the town held its Memorial Day Parade and observance on Monday, May 27.

Local children carrying banners with photographs of local military veterans who have passed. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
The banners were part of the “Sponsor a Veteran” program in which residents submitted photographs of area veterans who died to be placed on banners and honored in the parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Veterans leading the Memorial Day Parade down Main Street. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Some of the hundreds parade attendees. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Residents lined both sides of Main Street to watch the parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

A committee of 12 residents co-organized to bring the parade and observance ceremony at Town Hall back to town.

Some of the members and volunteers who worked to put together the Memorial Day Parade and ceremony. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

While other surrounding towns canceled their outdoor Memorial Day events due to threats of heavy rain, Great Barrington’s ceremony went on as planned. “Memorial Day is an emotional time,” said co-organizer Elizabeth Shaker. “I know the weather forecast looks bad, but we’re going to keep marching. The veterans did under bad circumstances, and so will we. I just want to say to our veterans, and all of the families of the fallen veterans, that we appreciate your contributions because it was of the highest order.”

Multiple youth organizations took part in the Memorial Day event. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

U.S. Army Major and West Stockbridge resident Sherrie Kinsella, who served in the Army’s Veterinary Corps for 20 years before retiring in 2024, said that Memorial Day makers her think about members of her family who served in the military. “I think about my father who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II,” Kinsella said. “Also, I think about my uncle, who was a pilot. He was shot down over the English Channel. They never found his body or his plane. That’s what I think about when I think of today. I think it’s wonderful that all of these people have come out here to honor those who sacrificed their lives while serving the country. Where I was stationed in Georgia, there is no commemoration of Memorial Day. It is great that they are having this here today.”

U.S. Coast Guard veteran Peter Sweet (left) and U.S. Air Force veteran Edgar Blackwell (right). The two Great Barrington residents took part in the parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Local community organizations, including Festival Latino of the Berkshires, took part in the Memorial Day Parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
The Monument Mountain Regional High School Marching Band in the Memorial Day Parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

The parade proceeded down Main Street and ended at Town Hall with a ceremony commemorating Memorial Day.

Some of the residents who watched the Memorial Day ceremony at Town Hall. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

During the commemoration ceremony at Town Hall, Selectboard Vice Chair Leigh Davis said that Memorial Day “is a day of solemn reflection but also one of unity and strength as we stand shoulder to shoulder, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“This day is very personal for me because my father, a Black Korean War veteran, served with the 6th Armored Division at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri,” Davis said. “As a Sergeant Major, he led the base’s first racial integration program and oversaw five companies. Some of the men he trained fought overseas and never returned. Though he never spoke about the war, his sense of duty and loss stayed with him. As a child, I remember my father putting on his garrison cap every morning before work. At the time, I thought it was just an odd quirk. Now, I understand it was a symbol of his unwavering commitment to his country and fellow soldiers. Though my father has passed on, his quiet strength and dedication to service inspire me every day.”

Davis said she is also proud of her daughter Kayleigh, a recent Monument Mountain graduate and Air Force Academy cadet. “Her dedication to serving our country continues our family’s legacy and inspires hope for the next generation,” Davis said. “As we look around our community, we see the legacy of brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Let us take a moment to remember and honor these heroes. Whether they fell on distant battlefields or here at home, their spirit endures.”

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