The special status of Veterans Day as a Bedford community event is manifested each year by a unique ceremony. Attendees line up to pay tribute to a relative or friend, living or deceased, who served. Then each speaker places a small U.S. flag into a wreath.
More than 30 people, literally of all ages, continued that tradition at Veterans Memorial Park Friday afternoon.
There were Korean War veterans and Scouts, grandmothers, and uniformed musicians from the high school marching band. New Police Chief John Fisher placed a flag in honor of his son. Band Director Jim Felker saluted his father. Caroline Fedele paid tribute to her father, longtime resident Louis Ennis, 95, a Coast Guard veteran who was buried yesterday.
Dr. Joseph Desiato, whose son, Lance Cpl. Travis Desiato was killed in action in Iraq 18 years ago, placed his flag “for all the veterans of the Vietnam War who deserved a better return.” That was greeted by applause.
The lineup of Veterans Day speakers included a high-ranking career soldier whose face may have been familiar to some.
Command Sgt. Major Philip Blaisdell, a 1991 Bedford High School graduate, declared, “I left 30 years ago, but Bedford will always be my hometown.”
“The Army,” he said, “gave me a sense of belonging, and a sense of values.” Other than sergeant major of the Army, command sergeant major is the Army’s highest enlisted rank.
Blaisdell paid tribute to the town’s two Gold Star families, Desiato and his wife Laurie, and Alma and Brian Hart. The speaker asserted that the military serves the people, “not a general, politicians, or a political party.”
Emily Mitchell, chair of the Select Board, spoke of veterans as “fundamentally people. Let’s not forget that those who serve are not only soldiers. They are just as beloved for who they are inside and out as they are for their service.”
Mitchell reinforced her point with stories of “friendship and camaraderie” emanating often from non-combat service time. “They felt like part of a team, a squad, a platoon,” she said. Veterans learned during their service time that they also can find fulfillment “beyond valor and sacrifice.”
State Sen. Ken Gordon of Bedford highlighted the commonwealth’s outreach to active-duty military personnel and veterans.
“This is the only state where every community has access to a veterans service officer,” he said.
He also noted that last summer at Hanscom Air Force Base, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a new law – called the SPEED Act – that streamlines the processes for occupational licensure and school enrollment for military families transferring to Massachusetts.
State Sen. Mike Barrett of Lexington noted that although his district includes nine towns, “I try to be in Bedford for Veterans Day” because the town “has a very special connection to those who served.”
“This community has been there in every conflict,” he said, beginning with the battle at North Bridge on April 19, 1775.
Barrett said he finds special meaning in recent national and international events in the context of Veterans Day.
Tuesday’s election results showed that “the country shares more than we realize across political philosophies.” He added that respect for veterans unites all Americans.
He also cited the war in Ukraine as an example of “what it’s like for a developed country to be in the middle of an awful conflict.” Scenes of Ukrainian troops rescuing civilians remind him that “our soldiers, too, risked their lives in service to a noble cause.”
Paul Purchia, who chairs the town Patriotic Holiday Committee, presided at Friday’s observance.