(photo by Jeff Cap)
Every year, the Orange Memorial Day Parade Committee works tirelessly for months to provide the town with the best, most interesting honored veterans and a wonderfully entertaining parade.
But after all the preparations, advertising, and anticipation, Sunday, May 27 arrived and the day’s activities were about to start, and so did the rain. Just a light drizzle really, but enough to prompt organizers to cancel the parade and, for the second time in nearly 35 years, move the ceremony indoors.
Even though the three honored veterans, all in their 90s, did not get to ride down the parade route to the reviewing stand, they still received meaningful recognition, respect, and appreciation from the sizeable crowd that gathered inside the High Plains Community Center Gym.
Grand Marshal – Albert Rapini (98 years old) – U.S. Army 1942 – 1945 – Rank of Tech Sergeant.
Albert Rapini, this year’s 2018 Grand Marshall, was born in New Haven on November 15, 1919. After he was honorably discharged in 1945, he married Anne Martone, and the two have been married for 73 years. They have resided in Orange since 1964, where they raised four children. He worked for Southern Ct. Gas, as a service technician for 35 years.
Al was a Little League or Babe Ruth coach for years.
Honorary Chief of Staff – Frank Tagliatela (96 years old) – U.S. Army 1942 – 1946 – Rank of Private First Class.
Chief of Staff Frank Tagliatela served in the United States Army from December 26, 1942, to February 26, 1946. He served in the U.S First Army in Europe as a member of a 40-millimeter gun crew attached to the 639th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion. Frank served in combat operations in the Ardennes, otherwise known as the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland and Central Europe.
Frank often jokes that there has never been a winter as cold as the winter of Battle of the Bulge.
Honored Veteran – Robert Swirsky (98 years old) – U.S. Army 1943-1945 – rank of Tech Sergeant.
Robert Swirsky was 23 when he landed at Omaha Beach in France, just after D-Day, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was among those who discovered the concentration camp at Nordhausen and freed numerous towns across Europe from the Nazis.
He was joined by Hedwige Kuepper of Milford, 87, who, as a teenager, saw Swirsky and his U.S. Army unit pass through her town of Seaus, outside of Paris, during the liberation of France during World War II, read their amazing story HERE.
The Keynote Speaker is Orange Town Clerk Patrick B. O’Sullivan, III: Veteran’s Affairs Liaison, former State Representative and former member of the Board of Selectmen.
Even without the parade, Memorial Day 2018 may have been the most meaningful celebration in decades.
Residents attended the ceremony and were able to concentrate on what was truly important: honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedom we have here in the United States each and every day.
Thank you to all the veterans for your service, and thank you to those who lost their lives fighting for freedom.
I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Memorial Day Committee, including Kevin Gilbert, Karen Goldberg, and Moderator Robert Mirto, in making this a truly memorable day for the three honored veterans and their families. Thank you for keeping the focus on the true meaning of the holiday. And the scouts in Jeff Cap’s troop for being respectful throughout the ceremony.