Burlington honored America's veterans and those lost defending our nation's freedom with a morning of ceremonies in honor of Memorial Day.
The services began with the traditional morning Flag Raising Ceremony on the Town Commons. Robert Hogan, Director of Burlington Veterans Services, presided over the ceremony, which featured the raising of the flag by members of the Burlington American Legion.
Jim Doherty, VFW Commander Bill Lewis and Norman Dooley raised a flag that recently flew over the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (See video).
At 10 a.m. the progression moved to the Chestnut Hill Cemetery for speeches, prayer and remembrances in honor of those who gave their lives in service to the country.
The ceremony was well-attended by members of the community. The American Legion Rifle Squad, Civil Air Patrol Cadets - Hanscom AFB, the Burlington Police Department and the Burlington Fire Department took part in the ceremony.
Music was provided by the Burlington High School Marching Band. BHS senior Zaven Ovian sang the Star Spangled Banner. Joseph McGrath also provided music on the bagpipe.
Though the ceremonies were to honor all veterans and members of the military lost in combat, this year there was a special focus on military chaplains.
"Today we honor the members of the Chaplain Corps, who served us, support us gave us comfort, in the most terrible of times, throughout the history of this country," Hogan said at the flag-raising ceremony. "These are the men who were with us at those final moments and gave us our Last Rights when no more could be done."
"Seventy one years ago, Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt was a 32-year-old Navy Chaplain from Dubuque, Iowa, who immediately after celebrating Sunday Mass on Dec. 7, 1941, on board the battleship USS Oklahama, was killed during the Japanese attack on the island of Oahu," Hogan said. "At the same time, aboard the USS Arizona, Chaplain Thomas Kirkpatrick, having just finished Sunday Services, also was killed when the Japanese attacked. Chaplains Aloysuis Schmitt and Thomas Kirkpatrick were the first two U.S. chaplains to be killed in World War II.
The flag was then raised in honor of all Chaplains, past and present.
At the ceremony at the cemetery, Chaplain (LTC) Paul Minor, Joint Forces Chaplain with the Massachusetts National Guard gave a talk on the history of chaplains in the United State Military. Larry Rice MCL spoke of the Four Chaplains, four men; a priest, a rabbi and two Protestant ministers, who gave up their own life jackets and remained on board to comfort and pray with the hundreds of men who were lost when the Dorchester went down February 3, 1943. (See video).
Reverend Francesco Passamonte also spoke at the ceremony and led the gathering in prayer in remembrance of all members of the military who gave their lives in defense of the nation.
Eternal God, on this day anointed with a spirit of Patriotism and a strong belief in the God of our fathers, we gather to remember the brave Americans who paid the ultimate price for the defense of our nation and the for the preservation of the liberty we all enjoy as citizens of the United States of America," Passamonte said. "Their untimely death on the battlefields of the past and the present will always be a reminder in the lives of all Americans that sacrificial services is the price most often required to ensure the sustainment of our freedom and national values."
Passamonte and Minor laid a wreath in honor of the men and women in uniform on the cemetery's memorial.
Selectman Daniel Grattan also spoke at the ceremony, representing Burlington's town leaders.
"Most of all we'd like to thank the men and women and their families who have given their lives to preserve our freedoms, it is for them we set aside this day of remembrance," he said. "We are recognizing the chaplaincy today, we owe all of you a debt of gratitude. Though you have served as non-combatants, you have stood in harms way while providing spiritual guidance and comfort to our men and women in arms. Many have performed heroically while attending to wounded and risking their own lives to do so, and in the end many of them also paid the price to preserve freedom for our country, so to all of them we say thank you."