Bozrah celebrates Memorial Day with fire engines, speeches, prayer
After a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID pandemic, Bozrah residents welcomed back their full annual Memorial Day celebration on Saturday, May 28.
Beginning at 11 a.m., wreath laying ceremonies were held at the World War I Memorial across the street from Fields Memorial School and at the All Veterans Memorial at Town Hall at the corner of Fitchville and River roads.
Rivers-Janowicz Post 138 of the American Legion sponsored the ceremonies, emceed by Raymond Barber. At the All Veterans Memorial, a crowd of 35 people was led in prayer by the Rev. Lee Edwards, pastor of the Bozrah Centre Congregational Church.
Although the planned guest speaker, Gold Star Mother Lora Prentice, was unable to come, several notables were called upon to talk about the meaning of the day, including Chris Rivers, Democratic district representative to the Connecticut General Assembly, West Point graduate and veteran of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also present was Republican State Sen. Paul Formica, representative of the 20th Senate District since 2015.
Both men stressed the importance of remembering not only the American service men and women who died in battle, but also those veterans who have returned and deserve our continued appreciation and support. Among those living Bozrah veterans especially remembered was Leon Paul Socha, who name was added to the Vietnam Era Monument that day and who served in the United States Air Force from 1967 to 1992, when he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Band strikes the right note
Everyone awaited with great anticipation the first Memorial Day parade since 2019. Several hundred people of all ages began gathering along the 1.6 mile parade route on Fitchville Road at about 12:30, bringing camp chairs, American flags, lunches and snacks to be enjoyed while listening for the sound of the Fields Memorial School band, led by music teacher Amanda Gooch, to signal that the parade was on its way.
For some of the youngest, the thing to watch was the fire engines from Bozrah Volunteer Fire Company, accompanied by apparatus from several neighboring departments, including East Great Plains, Yantic, Taftville, Franklin, Lisbon and Mohegan.
There was a bit of unexpected excitement as the parade approached the intersection of Fitchville Road and Bozrah Street Extension. Although the parade route was officially closed to traffic from Schwartz Road to the Moose Family Lodge, drivers of several cars hadn’t got the message and barriers had not been installed at all the intersections on the route.
As the cars sped toward the parade, a few onlookers took charge, stopped the cars and directed them off the route, thereby averting an accident.
One family that enjoyed the parade consisted of Mike and Christine Adams, recent newcomers to Bozrah, and their grandsons Brenton and Kohyn Navan of Griswold. When asked what the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday was, Brenton, a seventh grader, was eager to share what he had learned in school the week before.
He said that “it started way back in the 1800s to remember the fallen of all the wars.”
One of the earliest local celebrations of the holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the end of the Civil War in 1865 to celebrate the collapse of the Confederacy and to honor those who died to set free more than four million African Americans.
From there, the holiday, now called Memorial Day, spread throughout the country as local celebrations in honor of all who died in service of their country. Memorial Day didn’t become an official U.S. national holiday until 1971, during the Vietnam War era. In Bozrah, it is still very much a home-grown event.
Mary Elizabeth Lang lives in Bozrah.