Veterans, families of living and fallen servicemen and city residents laid flowers on the Vietnam Memorial at Gloucester High School, and officials placed wreaths at the city's Wold War II Memorial — all as part of the city's expanded Memorial Day parade and ceremonies Monday honoring the hundred Gloucester soldiers who gave their lives in those two wars and in others.
At the Vietnam Memorial — dedicated to the 11 Gloucester High graduates lost in that war, which the U.S. entered 50 years ago — the flowers were placed in a service dedicated to Joseph Marcantonio, a Vietnam veteran who speakers said was there for the city's returning soldiers. He died last August.
The city's ceremonies began with a parade from Harbor Loop to the World War II Memorial, before the parade moved on to the Vietnam Memorial — a component added to the parade route last week after city officials initially cut it out of the official ceremonies.
In the end, more residents came out for the ceremonies this year than usual, said attorney Mark Nestor, a Vietnam veteran who led the Vietnam Memorial service. The Gloucester ceremonies were just one part of Cape Ann's recognition of Memorial Day, with Rockport, Essex and Manchester also hosting parades and a variety of ceremonies at local cemeteries and elsewhere.
Around 40 Vietnam veterans from all branches of the armed services stood behind Nestor as he called them up for recognition at the close of the ceremonies. Noting the 11 Gloucester men who never came home, Nestor added that those standing behind him returned from a war that divided the nation.
"(We thank you) for coming to honor us for what we did," Nestor told the audience.
At the World War II Memorial, Capt. Earl Kashida of Rockport, a Navy veteran who served with the SEALs, said that it's up to citizens to make personal the names on the memorials.
War takes the treasures of the community, he said — its young men and women.
They fought for the liberty and freedom that people in this nation have, Kashida said, and have been a de-facto world peacekeeping force for decades. Their memories are carried on in private by families, he added, and in public in memorials. He asked residents to remember the fallen, and those who they left behind.
As memories fade, he said, residents need to carry them forward in these public memorials.
"I ask you to help them," Kashida said.
Speakers mentioned that Gloucester has more than 60 men and women actively serving today, many of them overseas.
Leaders of the city's veterans organizations also noted that they've had members pass away over the past year.
One of those members was Nicholas Curcuru, who died in September. His widow, Phyllis, watched the parade pass the World War II Memorial from her porch, facing the flags.
She said they had been married for 69 years, having tied the knot before he left for World War II. He was one of seven brothers in the service and served on patrol boats in the Pacific, she said, charged with rescuing soldiers from crashed planes and sinking boats.
But Curcuru and his brothers all returned home.
"That's what it's all about," she said.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk said the city's Memorial Day program is designed to remember men and woman who served and died and who made it home in all wars.
"We are most proud of Gloucester when so many people come out to honor them," she said,
Those soldiers, said state Sen. Bruce Tarr, put dreams on hold, and in some cases, never fulfilled them.
He encouraged residents to ensure that the ones who do come back aren't forgotten or shoved to the sidelines.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.