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ORLEANS — On a cold, misty morning, citizens mustered at Town Cove to honor the community's war dead. Some were in full-dress uniform; some wore shorts, heedless of the cool, damp breeze off the water.
They gathered closer as the police department's chaplain, the Rev. Sally Norris, asked them to “give thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of our country.” Then Taps was played before American Legion Post 308 Commander Phil Richardson and his wife honored the sacrifices of Navy and Coast Guard members by casting a floral tribute into the water.
Led by the drumbeat of the Nauset Regional Middle School Band, townspeople fell in behind the color guard and marched uphill on Cove Road before turning toward Academy Place and its war memorials. There the singing of the National Anthem was led by soloist Katie Sanborn of the middle school.
Police Lt. Kevin Higgins, master of ceremonies, told the hundreds gathered around the monuments that more than a million American soldiers have died in service since the Revolutionary War. The fire department's chaplain, the Rev. Wesley Williams, spoke of pondering that loss “with a sense of sadness but also pride and profound gratitude. May their valor always be remembered,” he said, adding a reminder that “we honor the dead best by treating the living well.”
Col. Paul Bruemmer of the U.S. Marine Corps thanked those who turned out, “especially those of you who brought children.” On this “day to remember those who did not return,” he asked everyone to think also of bereaved family members so they “are not alone.”
Referencing a table in front of the speaker's podium, retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Jon Fuller said it was set “for our prisoners of war and missing in action of all wars. The chair is empty, saved for the hoped-for return. The tablecloth is white, for the purity of their intentions. The lone candle is the prisoner alone, trying to stand up to oppression.” Among the other items, a single rose represented “those who keep the faith.”
Brig. Gen. James Dishner, USAF (Ret.), asked his neighbors to remember the number 21, not for 21-gun salutes to high-ranking officials but for the 21 steps the men and women of the armed services take while on duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington, Va. Of those who gave their lives in service, he said, “They truly aren't gone until you and I forget them. Let's never forget them.”