PHOTOS, VIDEO: New Canaan Memorial Day Parade 2015


New Canaan’s Boyd Harden gained his greatest appreciation for what Memorial Day means in 1995, about one year after flying dozens of international relief missions to Somalia as a U.S. Marine Corps aviator and officer.

As a member of the “Thundering Third”—the third battalion, fourth Marines—the 1983 NCHS graduate went to the island of Iwo Jima, a small volcanic island that had seen some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II in February and March 1945.

Addressing hundreds of New Canaanites gathered at Lakeview Cemetery for a solemn ceremony following the annual Memorial Day Parade on Main Street, Harden asked the crowd to envision what those Marines had faced in what would be a pivotal battle of WWII.

Imagine, Harden said, that loaded with 120 pounds of combat gear, it was the job of those gathered to get from Lakeview Cemetery to the water towers at Waveny, with 22,000 Japanese soldiers lying in wait in every home along the way.

“They [the Japanese] have been practicing for months and their sole intention is to kill all of us,” Harden said. “Imagine being one of those Marines standing on that beachhead. I’ve stood on that beachhead and it’s powerful. Think about the incredible bravery that these young men exhibited to go defy the odds and fight for America. So my question to you is: If you were in their shoes right now, which way would you run?”

Our nation is free because thousands of young men decided to run toward Mount Suribachi, Harden said—five of them eventually raising the American flag, as captured in Joseph Rosenthal’s iconic photograph—and it’s important to remember that “our freedom exists because of that.”

That’s one of five things that Harden said is important to remember every Memorial Day, and his experience on Iwo Jima “cemented” his thinking about the occasion. The other four are: Always respect the American flag, and show public disdain for anyone desecrating what men and women and have died for; Be happy and proud to be an American; Never take our country and freedom for granted; and recognize a fallen warrior. (For the last thought on Memorial Day, Harden called New Canaan’s Steve Benko to stand beside him at the podium, reminding the crowd that Benko’s own uncle, U.S. Marines Pfc. Lewis Benko, had died in the Battle of Iwo Jima.)

Broken by occasional applause during Harden’s stirring speech on a picture-perfect May morning, the ceremony at Lakeview included a placing of wreaths by the Daughters of the American Revolution and sister of deceased U.S. Navy SEAL Brian Bill, Girl Scouts singing “God Bless America,” prayers from the Rev. Peter Walsh of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, words from First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and a 21-gun salute to servicemen and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

New Canaan’s Peter Langenus, a U.S. Army captain in Vietnam who also served as a colonel during Operation Desert Storm and now serves as commander of VFW Post 653 in New Canaan, said: “Wherever the body of a comrade lies, there the ground is hallowed. Our presence here is in solemn commemoration to all these men and women, an expression of our tribute to their devotion to duty, to their courage and patriotism, by their service on land and sea and in the air, they have made us our debtors. For the flag of our nation still flies over a land of free people.”

2 thoughts on “PHOTOS, VIDEO: New Canaan Memorial Day Parade 2015

  1. Thank you for this! So many years of happy memories with this parade! Remembering participating as a Girl Scout! A New Canaan treasure.

  2. Thanks Michael, for such a wonderful review of the parade. As a regular marcher I never get to see the parade and thanks to you, this year I did! Thanks also for your comprehensive summary of Boyd’s amazing speech! Keep up the great work….your fellow New Canaanite!

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