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EDITORIAL: Who Will Step Forward Now?

Our first Memorial Day in Groton, we were awakened to the rhythmic beating of drums as marchers worked their way
northwest on Hollis Street. The last snow from the Blizzard of ’78 had finally disappeared and folks were eager to get outside and see the parade.
     Just two years after the nation’s bicentennial celebration, the Minute Men (in full regalia) were an impressive presence, and Cedric Moison, one of the last if not the last World War One vet, sat in an open air car. A unit from Fort Devens, which was still active then, marched as did the high school band.
     Changes in participation happened over the ensuing years: the Fort mostly closed down, the high school no longer supported a marching band, but the numbers of children increased through the ‘80s. Peter Guernsey decided he wanted a marching band so he organized a bunch of friends, some of whom thought of themselves as musicians (although maybe only the "weekend with friends" variety) and others who hadn’t picked up an instrument since high school.
     They were lured by the promise of Zoa Guernsey’s chowder at the end of the march and thus became the Marching Band and Chowder Society. Peter died in 2010 and the marching band ended with his passing.
     But with his tenacity and discipline, Bob Johnson, Air Force Captain and town Veterans Agent, shouldered responsibility for the parade starting at the outset of the 21st Century. Bob was meticulous in his planning and attention to detail. In the past 20 years the parade has seen the end of participation from a host of World War II and Korean War veterans, while Vietnam War vets are the latest “old soldiers and sailors” to march in the parade.
     But it was Bob who kept everything in ‘spit and polish’ order. His notes for the parade always stipulated that the parade would begin promptly at 9 a.m. and heaven help the latecomer.
     Because of the pandemic the parade was canceled this year. And in a strange twist of fate, Bob Johnson died May 17, ending his 20-year tenure as the organizer of the parade and memorial ceremonies.
     So who will step forward now? Who will organize the cars for the oldest veterans; the clergy for the ceremony at the mound; the order of those marching children, town officials, former or current military?
It is not for the faint of heart and it is not for those who think this is a way to seek glory or recognition. But is for someone who recognizes that even this little town needs to come together once a year to acknowledge its history, its commitment, and its gratitude for those men and women who came before us and still have lessons to teach our children and grandchildren about what citizenship means.
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