By Amelia Pak-Harvey
HARVARD -- Town residents and local veterans continued the tradition of remembering fallen heroes on Monday, when the annual Memorial Day parade marched throughout town.
The parade featured veterans, the fire department, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and the Nashoba Valley band. Beginning at Town Hall, the procession stopped throughout the town center, placing wreaths at the Civil War monument, the town cemetery and at the town center memorials dedicated to World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.
Residents learned the true importance of Memorial Day from Karen Adams, a Gulf War veteran who gave a speech at the town center flagpole. Her main message, she said, was that people were there to honor the "ultimate sacrifices" made by ordinary people.
"They were not necessarily heroes, but people who either made a choice or had a choice made or them to take a difficult and challenging role," she said. "People who were everyday people, Americans from many different cultures and backgrounds who joined together in a common cause."
She remembered a certain young man who was her driver while she was a company commander in the army. He later left the service to pursue other dreams.
When she came back from the Gulf War, she opened up a Newsweek and read an article about the war's deadliest attack in one day.
"Staring back at me was my driver's picture," she said. "He had left his dreams and gone back and re-enlisted to serve his country again, and became one of our ultimate sacrifices."
Peter Johnston, who served in the army from 1952 to 1954, came out with his family and marched in the parade.
"It means a lot to me when I see that people are continuing to go out and say thank you to the veterans we did lose," he said.
Johnston's niece, Sarah Gibbons, watched as her children placed geraniums on the graves of veterans at Bellevue Cemetery.
Although residents of Ayer, Gibbons said her family has always came out to the services in Harvard. She said her children love it.
"They look forward to this every year," she said.
Her six-year-old son, Dylan, has been putting flowers on the graves since he was a baby.
Meanwhile, two-year-old Abigail Roy followed in her grandmother's footsteps, placing flowers beside the American flags just like her mother did when she was her age.
Steve Cronin, who led the parade, served 20 years in air defense artillery, said the ceremonies went wonderfully.
Cronin, who served 20 years in the air defense artillery, remembers coming out to the parade when he was young. It has never stopped, he said.
"It has not changed since then," he said, adding that flowers have alwasy been placed on the graves.
Selectman Ron Rici, who served in the Navy from 1968 to 1973, said Memorial Day to him, Memorial Day means remembering the people who are no longer here.
"Memorial Day isn't really about the veterans, it's about people who paid the price," he said.
Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.