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Haddam’s 2019 Memorial Day Parade

By Kathy Brown.

It was a beautiful day in Haddam on Monday, May 27, 2019. Veterans, Haddam Volunteer Fire Company & Auxiliary, the Haddam Killingworth High School band, Scouts, Little League, and other sports organizations all marched down Route 81 through Higganum Center to the Higganum Green to pay tribute to Haddam’s lost heroes.

Rick Annino

After the parade, Rick Annino led the ceremony in front of Haddam’s Veteran’s Memorial. Rev. Madsen-Bibeau of the Haddam & Higganum Congregational Churches led the crowd in a prayer at the beginning of the ceremony, Julia Favalora, the 8th grade winner of the annual Memorial Day essay writing contest, read her essay, “The Cost of Freedom,” and Steve Abbatello, Higganum resident and Navy & Air Force veteran, read his speech. Steve joined the US Navy in 1997 where he served on four aircraft carriers. He then joined the US Air Force Reserves in 2006. He has had six combat deployments overseas, with 22 years of service (and counting). At the end of the ceremony, there was a 21 gun salute, the laying of wreaths, and Taps, played by two members of the HKHS band. It is always moving when they read the list of those we have lost in the various wars around the world. They also read off the names of the veterans who passed away since last Memorial Day. The ceremony ended with a closing prayer by Rev. Madsen-Bibeau. In case you missed it, we publish the speeches as well as pictures.

Julia Favalora

Julia Favalora – The Cost of Freedom  

A field of white. Stones placed in perfect lines. Row after row, after row. I try to search for an end. The point at which no other white stone lies; where an open field begins. But I cannot seem to find it.  The names of soldiers engrave each stone. Not a single man or woman here forgotten, each one loved by more than they would have imagined. I wish they could see what their sacrifice has done, the nation they have helped to build. But now they rest in the hands of God. Memorial Day is a day of honoring the fallen soldiers who granted our country freedom. A day to remember our brothers and sisters who no longer stand beside us. To them the freedom of their country was worth risking it all.

On our recent visit to Washington D.C, my peers and I had the chance to visit the Korean War memorial. There, four words engraved in dark grey granite, spoke out to me. “Freedom is not free.” In America, many of us overlook the word freedom. We don’t understand the number of lives it cost, or the amount of bravery it took to attain it. Those in service believed the power to act, write, or speak without hindrance was worth sacrificing everything.  We believe we are touched only by the loss of those we have kept close, when really, each and every fallen soldier has impacted us greatly. To me, Memorial Day is a day of honoring these brave souls who risked their lives to protect our freedom. We owe it to them to take time out of our busy, self-absorbed lives, to stop and realize who gave us all these privileges we get to enjoy. It is the least we can give back to those who deserve so much more.

Steve Abbatello

The cost of freedom is something we should never overlook. It was protected by brave hearts who understood they would sacrifice all they had for you and me.  Memorial Day is a day in which Americans come together to respect those who fought for our freedom; those who lost their lives in doing so. Whether we knew them personally or not, they influenced our lives greatly. The greatest dishonor we could give to these brave souls would be to not remember. The freedom we have been granted was never free.

Steve Abbatello’s speech:

Thank you for coming out to honor and remember this Memorial Day. My name is Steve Abbatello and I live right around the corner from here. I’d like to share with you Memorial Day through my eyes. Memorial Day used to mean just another day off to me when I was a kid. I knew it was related to military service somehow but that was about it. From a young age, I had an interest in military history. As I got older, I felt obligated to serve and joined the world’s greatest Navy at the age of 17. Throughout boot camp, I learned more and more about military history. Now I’m starting to understand it from a different perspective. It starts to make more sense to me operationally.

Most of you may not be aware but in the latter half of the ’90s, things were getting heated with Iraq and we actually had regular engagements with them during Operations Southern and Northern Watch. This would be my first foray into combat. It was exciting and from an operational standpoint, easy, as it surprisingly went as planned the majority of the time. Then the Fall of 2001 came and everything changed. Suddenly, I gained a much deeper understanding for the value of life. I started to see that combat does not always go the way I had experienced it previously in the ’90s. I started to see various units take large losses. It had hit me that these are units no different from my own, and these are regular guys no different than myself. I’m a regular person, no different from any of you here today. As I mentioned earlier, I live right around the corner from here.

So a few years later, I’ve left the Navy to join the Air Force. Now we’ve been at war for years with no signs of slowing down. Every day for years and years, I’m losing brothers and sisters to the ugliest actions man is capable of producing. Eventually, I find myself back in the desert yet again enduring miserable conditions. Wishing I was back in Higganum standing around a bonfire having a beer with the people I care about. Now I’m realizing that all of these wars prior to my generation were being fought by guys just like me. Guys that lived right around the corner from here. Guys who endured miserable conditions, who wished they were home with the people they care about.

To the men and women who serve this country, there is no better feeling than being home with our loved ones. There is no greater honor than to serve and protect the sanctity of our homeland and the safety of our loved ones. Sadly, so many of our brothers and sisters have not and will not be afforded the simple act of returning home to their friends and families. It is for this reason that we gather here today to honor them. To pay tribute to the men and women who are not just footnotes in history. These are regular folks just like you and I who lived around the corner. These are people who gave everything to ensure you and I could be free. Free to come together like we have here today.

This is why Memorial Day is so important to me. So please remember them with me. Honor them with me. Andknow that you can sleep soundly in your beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do you harm. May you go in peace. Thank you.


Photos of Annino, Abbatello, and Favalora by Kathy Brown. Photo of spectators by Bette Dybick. All other photos by Olivia Drake.

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