The following are the Memorial Day remarks by Mayor Shelley Brindle as prepared for delivery on Monday, May 25, 2020.
Thank you Reverend Williams for your comforting words. Thanks also to Allan Betau and Randy Grizzard for all that you and the American Legion do on behalf of our veterans and for once again hosting this Memorial Day service, especially in light of the times. Thanks also to Police Chaplain Keith Gibbons for his assistance in organizing this event.
I’d also like to acknowledge the Westfield Rescue Squad and the Police and Fire Departments for their participation, to our Public Works crews who made these monuments look so beautiful today, and to the Councilmembers in attendance here for their ongoing support and service to our community.
Lastly, and very importantly, I want to thank the public for staying home today, which is something I never would have imagined saying. Our community has demonstrated extraordinary acts of selflessness the past two months in a successful effort to keep our community healthy.
Today provides an opportunity for us to pause and remember our fellow citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can all enjoy the freedom and privileges that come with living in this great country.
This year, as we commemorate the 300th year of Westfield’s settlement, I want to highlight a few of the many local residents who sacrificed their lives for our freedom throughout our three centuries. Their names are found in our Revolutionary and Fairview Cemeteries, and are carved on the memorials around us, including the 18 heroes we lost in the First World War known as the Supreme Honor Men, whose names can also be found on our Gold Star streets throughout town.
Our tradition of service and sacrifice goes back to 1780, when Captain Eliakim Littell commanded the Jersey Blues militia group of volunteers comprised of well-known local names such as Clark, Cory, Miller, Ludlow, Pierson, Scudder, Ross and Williams. This ragtag group of colonists so effectively disrupted Lord Cornwallis’ operations that a British expedition was sent to dislodge them in what became known as the Battle of Springfield. After engaging the enemy which took them around Stanley Oval, they eventually chased the British out of Westfield.
Perhaps our most well known hero is Martin Wallberg, for whom our American Legion post 3 is named, who grew up nearby on South Avenue. In 1916, while the United States remained neutral in WWI, he enlisted in the Canadian army because he felt it was his duty to serve. Wounded in action, Martin recovered and went back into service. On November 10,1917, while being the first to carry the American flag over the top, Private Wallberg was killed in action in Belgium when he was just 19 years old.
Daniel Nichols was a 1961 graduate of Westfield High School where he was a state champion swimmer and a recipient of the Eljabar Foundation scholarship for leadership and sportsmanship. He was working on a masters degree in Education when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967 to serve his country in Vietnam. Lt. Nichols had just been awarded the Silver Star for heroism when he was tragically killed in a base accident along with five of his brothers in arms. He left behind a wife and an 8 month old son.
There are countless other stories that accompany each of the names you see around us, many of which should be required reading for every school-age child in Westfield. The loss to our community over the years has been significant, not only in the unrealized bright future of each of these heroes, but on the impact of those they left behind. Each one of these names represents a lost child, sibling, spouse or parent. As the proud daughter of an Air Force pilot killed in Vietnam, I feel their loss very personally.
As a community, I ask that you consider honoring the sacrifice of these brave individuals by taking the opportunity to learn more about these local heroes who died defending our freedom. Take your kids to visit our Revolutionary and Fairview cemeteries, or find the Gold Star streets and learn the stories of the bravery of those whose names appear on them.
Let’s honor their sacrifice by committing to continuing to act selflessly and compassionately for the greater good of the community, as we have done for the last two months. Let’s always strive to embody the ideals and values they cherished, and for which they died. Service above self. God bless our Westfield community and the United States of America. Thank you.