By JOHN NOLAN
The Town of Milton, which alternates its annual Memorial Day exercises between Milton Mills and Milton, held much of this year's event outside the American Legion Post 61 building in glorious weather a piece of good fortune remarked upon by one of two guest speakers, former U.S. Congressman Jeb Bradley.
At the outset, the President of the Day, Post 61 Adjutant Bob McKinley, introduced Pastor Richard Arnold, who is a retired Air National Guard and U.S. Navy veteran, and he gave the Invocation. Then the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was recited by Marine Corps Reserve Lt. Col. Phil Bean, who is also a former Milton selectman.
Nute High School Band, under the direction of Frank Lynn, played the national anthem and the Gettysburg Address was impeccably delivered by Milton eighth grader Rylee Bernier.
There were two guest speakers Congressman Bradley and Josh Ackerberg of Milton, who is a three-time state winner of the American Legion's High School Oratorical Contest. Ackerberg's father, Eugene, is a member of Post 61.
Ackerberg, addressing an audience of around 200 parade participants and spectators, said that there were monuments all over the country, and while few were on the scale of those in Washington, D.C., their message of honoring veterans was not lost. He said people should also make a personal endeavor to honor veterans, noting that patriotism was very much a part of the American spirit up through the two world wars.
During the Vietnam conflict, things changed, he said. The country was divided about the war's justification.
"But the sacrifice (of the military) was just the same. It did not give people the right to dishonor them," said Ackerberg, reminding the gathering that unity had made the United States successful.
"How do we honor Iraq veterans?" he asked rhetorically, explaining that people do so by believing in the individuals, even if disagreeing about the causes of the conflict.
Bradley, following Ackerberg to the microphone, congratulated him on the excellence of his speech.
"He captured what is so important about Memorial Day. We need to thank those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Bradley.
Bradley added that currently there are 100,000 members of the military in harm's way.
"When they come home, they should have a health care system and an education system that takes care of them ... We must support our men and women who wear the uniform," said Bradley.
The Nute High School Band followed Bradley with a short patriotic recital, and the Rev. Betsey Weber wound up the ceremony with a Benediction.
The parade then stepped off to White Mountain Highway and the bridge crossing over the Salmon Falls River into Maine, where a brief service was held for those lost at sea. The parade then continued on White Mountain Highway to Depot Pond Road and countermarched along the highway to Milton Veterans' Memorial Park before returning to the Post Home.
The drummer for the parade was Stanley Banks, and the three Marshals of the Day were American Legion Post 61 Commander Herb Wolfinger, Milton VFW Post 61 Commander Robert Graham and Fred Guldbrandsen of Union VFW Post 7663.
In addition to the four veterans' organizations and their auxiliaries, participants included Gold Star Mothers, Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts, Milton School Unicycle Club, the Mary Torr Chapter of the DAR and members of Milton Fire and Police Departments.