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'Let us not abandon them in death': Memorial Day honored in Springfield with wreath laying

For many Americans, Memorial Day signals the start of summer with family gatherings, store sales and a day off work.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Commissioner of Health and Human Services Helen Caulton-Harris said she hopes people will also remember what the holiday really stands for.

"On Veterans Day, we honor all veterans. On Memorial Day, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And we need to remember that while we are picnicking and shopping and enjoying our freedoms, we need to remember why we have them," said Caulton-Harris, speaking during the annual Memorial Day ceremony held Friday at city hall.

The event included comments from local and state officials, including Mayor Domenic Sarno and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield.

Sarno reinforced Caulton-Harris' sentiments about the day.

"It's a beautiful day today in downtown Springfield. And we're able to celebrate beautiful days like this because of our veterans. So, whether you're going to be at a picnic or the retail sales that go on, these opportunities we have is because of our veterans," he said.

Several military veterans, including Springfield Veterans’ Services Department Director Tom Belton, also spoke.

"We love them in life as veterans, but let us not abandon them in death," Belton said. "Because if we can keep that alive, we've accomplished what we need to do as a country."

Gumersindo Gomez, the executive director of the Massachusetts Bilingual Outreach Center, and a veteran of the Vietnam War, said Memorial Day is also about the families of those who have died.

"Be proud of those that gave their lives on our behalf, but yet be proud for those families that gave those to us to defend our way of life," he said. "If you know some of the families, give them a call. Say, 'Thank you ... for what your family did for this country.'"

Memorial Day is Monday, May 29.

Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.