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Orange Memorial Day Ceremony Rainy Weather Style

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May 302021
 

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.

They were followed by Keynote speaker Chris Carvath, an attorney who also serves on the Orange Police Commission.

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.

Kevin McKeon played Taps as the veterans stood at attention and saluted.

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.

 

 

Orange’s Unique Memorial Day Ceremony

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May 282018
 

(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.