There is no shame in having Memorial Day barbecues and enjoying a day off from work or school; the shame is in forgetting why the federal holiday exists. That is what Petty Officer Joseph Bykowski, Iraq War veteran and veterans liaison for U.S. Sen. John Kerry, told the crowd that gathered at Veterans Memorial Triangle in after on Monday.
"It is my belief that Memorial Day is a day to pause, reflect, to honor and to give thanks," Bykowski said. "It is a day to remember one's lives and live it for what they gave it for. It is a day to cherish and appreciate life and all the sorrows and joys that come with it."
Several local leaders spoke at the ceremony, including state Rep. George Ross, an Attleboro veteran whose son-in-law Capt. Joshua Johnson returned home Sunday from a tour in Afghanistan.
"He's my hero, and we’re so glad our prayers were answered and he was able to come home to us," an emotional Ross said.
City Council President Frank Cook spoke about the memories that Memorial Day triggers from him, including a high school friend killed in a military operation that still remains classified, his World War II veteran father and many other teachers, ministers, scout leaders and coaches who fought in World War II and Korea.
"Few, if any, of them—except for the history teachers—talked much about their experiences," Cook said. "But that was typical of that generation—people who did their service, yet lead by example in their remembrance of Memorial Day."
The ceremony was emceed by John Vandal, commander of the Attleboro War Veterans Council. It included music from the Coastline Show Chorus.