The Memorial Day Ceremony at the gazebo is a treasured tradition in the town of Orange. The Memorial Day Committee works tirelessly for months to plan the events, from who the honored veterans will be to inviting town and state dignitaries and putting together the marching order for the parade.
So when Mother Nature sticks her nose into the mix and decides to rain on the parade, the committee has to quickly change the logistics — move the very important ceremony indoors — inform the public that there won’t be a parade, and ensure that the building custodian is available at the conclusion of the ceremony.
This year, longtime chairman Kevin Gilbert, who ran the events for decades, took a step back and handed the reigns over to Kellie Martino. Oh, Kevin is still a part of the planning but he is happy to see things run so smoothly with a new chairman at the helm. “She did a wonderful job, thinking to do things we’ve never done before,” Gilbert said. “Like the Facebook page.”
Martino brought the Committee into the 21st century, introducing an Orange Memorial Day Parade Facebook page to which everyone could refer for information and last-minute updates, such as posting the parade cancellation at 8:30 a.m.
The indoor ceremony was last-minute indeed, but very well organized and well attended. The Orange Police Honor Guard, accompanied by Chief Robert Gagne and Assistant Chief Max Martins were present. Members of Orange CERT, a scout troop, and the American Legion Post 127 Honor Guard also attended. The entire rear corner of the Community Center Gym was filled by the rank and file of the Orange Volunteer Fire Department.
Many veterans filled the seats, that were spaced a “safe distance” apart. Some in the audience wore masks, others did not.
The ceremony followed the regular schedule, invocation; Pledge of Allegiance; Diane Raikis’s beautiful rendition of the National Anthem; comments from First Selectman Jim Zeoli, then the introductions of, and comments by the three honored veterans — Grand Marshal Dr. Norman Marieb Lt. MCUSNR US Navy 1961-63, Chief of Staff Kevin Hadlock Lt. US Navy 1971-74, and Honored Veteran Louis Eagle SP4 US Army 1960-63.
Our lawmakers came next: Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and former House Republican Leader Themis Klarides.
Anna May Pieger, the president of the Post #127 Auxiliary presented the sons of Al Pol and Richard Manley the sashes that their fathers wore in past parades.
One staple of the ceremony is the student essay winners’ reading of their winning submissions. The subject of the 2021 essay was “Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?”
The winners, one from each Orange elementary school were Armaan Shrivastav, Chloe Chang and Avery French. Their essays won the approving nods of the veterans in attendance.
Rosa DeLauro and Richard Blumenthal both took copies of the essays to enter into the state’s congressional and senate records.
New this year, was the Memorial Day Program Cover Contest. The winner of the inaugural contest was student Avery Alves.
Fred O’Brien read the names of every Orange veteran who passed away between May 2019 to May 2021.
The ceremony concluded with a benediction from Antoinette Hudgens.
It was wonderful to see so many families come out to honor the brave men and women who helped to secure our freedom.