Rev. Marc Bishop, the co-pastor at Holy Family Parish, has been posted in Amesbury for a few short months. In that time he has given numerous sermons, but it was the message he delivered regarding his previous posting that will likely have the most lasting impact on those in attendance at Monday’s annual Memorial Day observance.
Ordained in 2001, Rev. Bishop is a U.S. Navy lieutenant and served as chaplain in Fallujah Province in Iraq with the 1st Battalion 25th Marines from March through October 2006.
“From the memorials I conducted or attended and the wounded I prayed over, I see every one of their faces in honor,” he said. “We have not forgotten, and will not forget, that our liberty is too often secured at the cost of the blood of the young.
“Their blood is the cost of our freedom,” said Rev. Bishop of those who served in previous conflicts and those who choose to serve today.
Rev. Bishop was part of the group of soldiers instrumental in arranging for the transport of a disfigured young Iraqi girl to Massachusetts General Hospital for surgery late last year. He said that medic Chris Walsh took pictures of the girl and showed them to his fellow soldiers, who vowed to seek help. Their story is featured in the May edition of Reader’s Digest.
“Doc Walsh showed us pictures of Baby Mary and we knew it was our mission to bring that little girl and her grandparents here to the Unites States for treatment,” Rev. Bishop said.
However, Walsh and two other soldiers were killed instantly last Sept. 4 when an IED demolished the Humvee in which they were patrolling. Rev. Bishop was performing a memorial service when he heard an explosion in the background.
“That’s not unusual,” he said, but upon learning that the blast “took the lives of three I was serving with,” he said he prepared himself to deal with the shock and anger that would follow.
Rev. Bishop said “that did happen” but added that the group never wavered in its determination to bring Baby Mary to Boston for surgery. He credited U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy for an active role in moving the process along. And, when Rev. Bishop e-mailed one of his former parishioners at St. Mary’s Church in Chelmsford asking for assistance with finances, “I had an e-mail back 15 minutes later saying everything was taken care of.”
“Truly what happened is that we recognized the mission at hand and the need to complete it. After Doc’s death, our mission became to complete this mission in his honor. We serve the living to honor the dead,” Rev. Bishop said.
“Father Marc did a great job. It’s the first time I can recall the crowd being totally silent during the speech,” said Officer Tom Hanshaw, a member of the Police Honor Guard.
In a brief address to the sizeable crowd, VFW Post Commander Bob Smith said, “If we teach what freedom means today and tomorrow, hopefully it will make for a better future for us all.”
Mayor Thatcher Kezer, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, said “given the state of affairs in the world, more people are attending and participating in Memorial Day observances. It’s a celebration of our spirit and a celebration of those who continue to serve this country and some who will give the ultimate sacrifice.”
Thirty-three residents serving in the Armed Forces were introduced to the crowd and presented service awards by Kezer and Smith. Among them were Army PFC Anthony Klufts, who will deploy with the National Guard 182nd Engineers Sapper Unit out of Newburyport on June 9.
Two members of the Police Honor Guard were also recognized. Officer George Cavanaugh’s son Ryan is now serving in Iraq. Officer Jason Kooken is a Coast Guard Fire Specialist First Class.
The high school band played the national anthem as well as “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. Retired police officer Dan Cleary sang “God Bless America.”The annual parade started at the fire station and marched the short distance to Justin Park, across the street from the Middle School. At the conclusion of the ceremony at Justin Park, the parade re-formed and proceeded to another observance at Union Cemetery off Summit Avenue.