ADAMS, Mass. — A caravan of Legionnaires and veterans from posts throughout the county made its way up a foggy Mount Greylock early Sunday morning.
For American Legion Post 160, this was at least its 85th pilgrimage to the summit to lay a wreath at the War Memorial for fallen comrades.
"When someone passes families hold a celebration of life. Our fallen comrades are family, therefore, Memorial Day is our celebration of life," Dennis St. Pierre, guest speaker and past commander of Berkshire County District 1 and North Adams American Legion Post 125 said. "We know firsthand these stories, these losses. Our charge is to keep making this accent not just today but every day.
St. Pierre thanked members for attending the ceremony at the "top of Massachusetts" and paused on the military history of the mountain itself.
"This beacon shines bright over all of our fallen comrades, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, dear friends and more," he said. "A place where the famed 10th Mountain Division once trained ... They trained on our Thunderbolt Ski Trail where now there is a new generation of skiers ... most of whom are children of war veterans, protect and maintain our mountain."
St. Pierre went through the history of Memorial Day and said since its inception after the Civil War many more have bravely sacrificed in the name of freedom.
"The line between oppression and freedom is drawn by the graves of our fallen comrades. Those who left native shores to the unknown waters of war leaving fanfare and familiarity for the rounds of gunfire and the fog of bombs," he said. "Those back home saw the conflict from afar ... while others stormed into the shadow of war undoubtedly afraid and aware of what was being asked of them but never hesitating."
St. Pierre spoke directly to his fellow veterans and asked them to take a moment to remember fallen comrades not only as soldiers but as friends and in many cases family.
"Remember their heroics that have impacted lives stretching from east to west from the north to the south. Examples of what it takes to keep the American flame from going out," he said. "But do not forget the man. Do not forget the woman. Celebrate their lives because these memories and stories are not just part of our military history but part of the foundation of the American spirit and the heart of our great nation."
After a ceremony and firing squad, a memorial wreath was set in the rotunda of the tower, originally built on the state's highest peak as a memorial to Massachusetts servicemen killed in World War I. Breakfast was then served at the Bascom Lodge.
Earlier in the morning during the drive up the mountain, the group stopped near a small waterfall to share in a toast to all passed veterans.
During the break, Post 160 historian John Bordeau said the Adams American Legion has always been involved with the Veterans War Memorial Tower. The 93-foot granite tower topped by a beacon was built between 1931 and 1932 and dedicated in 1933.
As early as the summer of 1932, the Adams post wanted to be involved because it was in Adams, he said. "They decided they wanted to be involved with ceremonies at the tower a year before it was even dedicated ... as soon as they turned the light on we had a little ceremony in town."
Past commander Don Sommer agreed and said post 160, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, was pivotal in the first reconstruction of the monument.
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Pending its blessings, the articles will then move to annual town meeting for final approval. The board passed on all 28 articles unamended but some came under brief scrutiny, mostly for clarification purposes.
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