The city of Beverly, a suburb of Boston, called off its Memorial Day parade this year because so few veterans would be able to march.
Veterans in Beverly gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers.
The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War.
Vietnam veteran Ron Innocenti tells WBZ-TV he hates canceling because of the message it sends to current service members. But he does understand the reason.
Many veterans who were gathered at the Herman A. Spear American Legion Post this weekend are upset by the decision.
“It’s not right to me,” says Ron Innocenti. He is a Vietnam veteran who has not only marched in the city’s Memorial Day parade in the past; he says he has also been its grand marshal.
He hates to cancel because of the message it sends to men and women serving now.
“It’s a slap in the face to them that we’re not doing it,” Ron Innocenti says.
“But on the other hand, I can see why we’re not doing it because of the age of the veterans we have now.”
That gets to the heart of the problem. In Beverly, there just are not enough veterans alive who are well enough to march in the parade anymore.
As for younger veterans – like the men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan – they are often too busy to take part.
World War II Navy veteran Bill McPherson tells NECN he’s upset about parade cancellation but “there aren’t that many of us left”.
“My wife and I have both been quoted as saying we are upset by the whole thing,” said Bill McPherson.
There are veterans that are OK with the fact there is no longer a parade. People like the town’s Veteran’s organizer Jerry Guilebbe.
He says it can be difficult for older vets to take part.
“It’s not about parades and down the street and waving flags, it is about what we did all week long, spending countless hundreds of hours putting flags on every veteran’s grave, and remembering who they were,” said Jerry Guilebbe.
Tom Condon is the town’s oldest veteran, at 93, he recalls those who were lost.
“That people remember, who left and never came back, which is a lot of them, that’s who I remember,” said Tom Condon.
Tom Condon’s daughter, Suzanne, believes that it is about more than older vets who can no longer march a mile.
“It’s a little bit of a reflection to people who are in younger generations not really realizing how many people fought for us and how hard life was for them to make life great for us,” she said.
“It’s very disappointing to me. I think it’s a shame,” says Robert Driscoll, a local veteran who served in Korea.
“Hopefully maybe next year we can change that.”
City officials think that if enough veterans come forward to participate next year, or if the city can come up with another way to have them be a part of the parade, then the city will bring it back.