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Stockbridge remembers those who served ‘With courage, dedication, and selflessness’

"When Memorial Day comes around, I think about the friends and family that we've lost," said Harold French, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1989. "So many people don't realize what it's like to be beside somebody when they take their last breath."

Stockbridge — Hundreds of residents from throughout the Berkshires came out to remember soldiers who gave their lives for their country at the town’s Memorial Day services and parade on Monday, May 29.

The event began with ceremonies at the town’s two cemeteries, along with a riverside ceremony for soldiers who died while at sea.

Veterans honoring the fallen at Memorial Day ceremonies held at Stockbridge’s cemeteries. Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Veterans honoring the fallen at Memorial Day ceremonies held at Stockbridge’s cemeteries. Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.
U.S. Navy veteran Harold French who played “Taps” at the Memorial Day ceremonies. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

At each ceremony, prayers were read by Reverend Libby Wade, and “Taps” was played by veteran Harold French. French served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1989. “When Memorial Day comes around, I think about the friends and family that we’ve lost,” French said. “So many people don’t realize what it’s like to be beside somebody when they take their last breath. So many people don’t know what it’s like to hear that ungodly sound. We’re thankful everyday that we wake up.”

Veterans Keith Raferty and Lisa Thorne. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Veteran Lisa Thorne served in the Army Reserves as a medic from 1980 to 1986. “For many years, I didn’t even get involved with Memorial Day events,” Thorne said. “I had gotten rid of my uniform because I thought it was all past history. Then one time before Memorial Day, I saw a program on PBS. It was a program out of Washington, D.C. that was a tribute to those who served. It triggered something in my mind that made me realize that it’s not about me and that I do need to become involved in these ceremonies. It’s important to honor those who have died and those who have fought for our freedoms.”

Veteran Keith Raferty served from 1957 to 1959 and 1961 to 1962 in the U.S. Army. “When you serve, you don’t realize the bond with the guys who are with you,” Raferty said when asked what he thinks about during Memorial Day. “It was a different atmosphere than being at home. You were doing something for the country and doing something for yourself. You definitely grew up when you were in the service because it was dangerous. Memorial Day is sad, but time moves on. Memorial Day is a way to bring towns and the country back together again because there’s a feeling of patriotism that brings us together.”

U.S. Army veteran Jay Bikofsky, U.S. Navy veterans Harold French and Jim Dolson, and U.S. Army veteran Merrill Sanderson. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

After the gravesite services, veterans, along with residents from organizations, town officials, and the Monument Mountain Regional High School marching band, took part in a parade down Main Street.

Members of the Monument Mountain Regional High School marching band who took part in the Memorial Day parade. Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Members of the Monument Mountain Regional High School marching band who took part in the Memorial Day parade. Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson.
A casket to represent those who have died while serving their country. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Veterans stand in tribute at the Soldiers’ Monument in downtown Stockbridge as part of the town’s Memorial Day ceremonies. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Some of the many residents who lined up Main Street to watch the Memorial Day parade. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Members of the Stockbridge Fire Department. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

The parade participants marched down Main Street to Old Town Hall for a concluding service.

Reverend Libby Wade and U.S. Navy veteran Harold French. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

“As the granddaughter of someone who served in World War I, the daughter of a serviceman who served in World War II, and the spouse of someone who served during the Vietnam War, I am indeed grateful for all who offered themselves with courage, dedication and selflessness, knowing the great risk of doing so my family members survived, for which I am grateful,” Rev. Wade said during the service. “On this Memorial Day, we pause to honor the sacrifices of those members of the military who died as a result of their commitment to the cause of freedom and justice, giving their lives for our nation, for us, and for future generations.”

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