Over 500 gathered on the North Lawn of the historic to celebrate Memorial Day at home with a majestic musical tribute to our heroes. As the Westfield Community Band played a variety of moving patriotic pieces, local veterans paid tribute to their fallen comrades with heartbreaking letters written to loved ones from the battlefront.
“For those who fought and served - our veterans that are here tonight, Memorial Day can’t help but be about honoring those who died, “ Mayor Colleen Mahr said. “But for the rest of us, it’s a conscious effort. It was that effort that became the driving force to bring this performance to you tonight.”
As hundreds sat on the grass with family and friends, the Westfield Community Band under the direction on Dr. Thomas Connors thrilled the crowd with invigorating marches like the Battle Hymn Republic and American Salute and followed the tribute speeches with mournful yet beautiful hymns like Amazing Grace and America the Beautiful.
In between the steady march of the timpani and uplifting flight of piccolos and clarinets, the crowd grew silent to hear three tributes given by VFW Chairman Joseph McCourt (First Lieutenant, US Army, Vietnam War), Peter Huefner, (Hospital Corpsman Third Class, US Navy, Persian Gulf War) and Edward J. Chrystal, Jr. (Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, Iraq War).
These local veterans gracefully embodied the voices of departed heroes, writing a last letter home to a fiancé and a wife. McCourt read a mother’s letter for her son, left at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. As McCourt read that letter, he described a Mother’s infinite sadness after losing her young son who after spending just four months in Vietnam, perished in a helicopter crash.
“They tell me that the letters I write for you and leave at the memorial are waking up others to the fact that there is still so much pain left after all these years. But this I know – I would rather have had you for 21 years and all the pain that goes with losing you, than never to have had you at all.”
As many in the audience wiped away tears and stretched their legs during the intermission that followed McCourt’s tribute, Councilman Glover remarked on what he hopes will be “an annual tradition.”
“This is by far my proudest moment as a member of the Council,” Glover said. “[The concert] is a resounding success. We came here tonight not as Scotch Plains or Fanwood residents, but as one to pay our respects and that, is what makes tonight so special.”