The planned “reimagining” of this year’s COVID-delayed Memorial Day Parade for Westfield’s 300thAnniversary is something far from the traditional ceremony that has taken place Downtown for many, many decades--organized by local veterans who do so to honor their fellow service members and comrades-in-arms—a commitment which doesn’t end when the uniform is put away or when one stops waking up to the sound of a bugle.
Memorial Day in Westfield has always been about celebrating those men and women who served their Country, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. After the wreath-laying, music, speeches and salutes, our Veterans Organizations, First Responders, elected officials and community organizations march down East Broad Street, greeted along the route by appreciative townsfolk. Underscoring the upbeat atmosphere is the Town’s solemn respect for the occasion. This event culminates in a short ceremony in the historic veterans’ hilltop section of Fairview Cemetery. Some marchers don’t make it the whole way, but those who do are rewarded with an even greater perspective of just how many generations of Westfield’s own have fought and died in our Nation’s Wars.
This year’s plan for Westfield’s celebration of Memorial Day falls woefully short of the proper honoring of our veterans. While we all understand the recent necessity of avoiding such large gatherings, the current stated plan relegates this event to a hashtag and a fair. The current plan calls for you decorate your home in a patriotic fashion (always a good idea) and print out a page prepared by the Westfield 300 Committee to color and post to social media. If you’ve seen the design for this page, you’ll surely share in my disappointment. Plastered over the barely-visible Flag of our Country is the Westfield 300 logo. Buried in the poppy-free collection of flowers and prominent butterflies are the words “REMEMBER AND HONOR”. Who are we remembering? Flowers and butterflies? The 300th Anniversary of the founding of our Town? Perhaps it would be better to draw your own picture of an unobscured American flag or a picture of a service member or something else that represents the spirit of a day of honor and remembrance. You could post that to social media instead.
The advertised ‘Enhanced Memorial Day’ Parade is a Town Parade. No ceremony of remembrance Downtown. No speeches from veterans or grateful politicians. A better way to honor our departed service members would be to perhaps visit one of our beautiful, well-maintained war memorials in Downtown’s Memorial Plaza or visit one of the markers honoring deceased War Veterans at Town Hall and Memorial Pool. Walk amongst the grave markers at Fairview or the Presbyterian Church, lovingly-decorated with American flags by your fellow citizens. Google one of the names on the Cleo statue or read the list of Gold Star Streets on our Town’s Website. These would be more appropriate ways to remember and honor, rather than standing on line at a food tent, listening to live music or having your child climb on a truck. Let’s call this proposed event what it is—a Town Parade, Westfield 300th Anniversary Celebration, Halfway-to-AddamsFest, COVID-delayed Spring Fling or Town Picnic. Heck, I’ll even join you there. 300 years is a big deal! Please just don’t call it a Memorial Day Parade--it surely isn’t that. Surely not everything needs to be "reimagined.”
Please have a healthy, safe and meaningful Memorial Day.
Shawn Mullen, Major, US Army Reserve, 1987-2014