Veterans Council Chair Aldo Mancini, behind the podium, awarded three Agawam High School students — Nick Nguyen, Gabe Rua and Shannon Newsome — certificates of appreciation for their work with veterans.

Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

AGAWAM — While this year’s Memorial Day parade was rained out, the town still honored fallen veterans in an indoor ceremony at Agawam Junior High School.

“Let us never forget their service and sacrifice,” said Veterans Director Christopher Lanski. “Let us always strive to live up to the ideals that they so valiantly defended.”

In his speech, Lanski detailed several ways to show appreciation for veterans on the day, such as placing flowers or flags on graves, laying wreaths at memorials and monuments, attending community parades and ceremonies, and asking veterans about their fallen fellow service members.

Linda Turner performs the national anthem, as other people on stage face towards the flag.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

“It expresses our gratitude and appreciation for their service, while showing that we care about the sacrifices that their friends have made to keep our country free,” he said. “These conversations also provide a source of comfort and inspiration to veterans who may be struggling with the physical, emotional or psychological toll of their wartime service.”

Lanski specifically named two Vietnam War veterans from Agawam, Louis Russo and Frank Mazzei, both of whom served in the Air Force.

“We will always remember and honor their sacrifice,” he said.

Lanski stressed that people should live up to the ideals veterans fought for, which he said were freedom, justice and equality.

Veterans Council Chair Aldo Mancini honored parade marshal Kenny Thompson, an Agawam resident who joined the Army in June 1970, and deployed to Vietnam in the 299th Engineering Battalion, B Company, under the command of Belchertown resident Lt. Michael Austin. Austin died after his vehicle was hit by a rocket; Thompson gave immediate medical care to those hit by the rocket. Thomspon later received a Bronze Star medal and a Purple Heart award.

“Kenny, I want to thank you for your service and I’m glad to be your friend,” said Mancini.

Mayor Christopher Johnson said his thoughts and gratitude on Memorial Day turn to his Navy veteran father, alongside all veterans.

“The great country that we live in and the ability that we have to debate amongst ourselves about what’s best for our community and our nation is only there because of the sacrifices that they all make,” Johnson said.

Veterans Council Chair Aldo Mancini speaks about Agawam veteran Kenny Thompson, behind him, who had been named the parade marshal for the canceled Memorial Day parade.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

Johnson also introduced the city councilors in attendance: Council Vice President Anthony Russo, Anthony Suffriti, Dino Mercadante, Robert Rossi, George Bitzas, Gerald Smith, Peter Smus, Maria Valego, and Tom Hendrickson.

Also in attendance was state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick). In his speech, Boldyga said that the United States is at “a time of discord and disillusionment.” He said that Americans should strive to protect the freedoms fallen veterans fought for and to honor them by creating a more peaceful, unified world.

“Let us be guided by the shared values that have defined us as a nation,” he said. “Let us remember that we as a diverse tapestry of cultures, beliefs and backgrounds woven together by a common thread of ‘liberty, justice and for all.’”

Alongside those speeches, Agawam High School student Tanner Blake read an essay he wrote for a competition, showing appreciation for fallen veterans.

As well, Mancini gave certificates of appreciation to three other high school students. Shannon Newsome was honored for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout; she has been volunteering with the veterans’ council since 2021. At the ceremony, she read the names of Agawam Civil War veterans while Lanski rang a bell. After sounding “Taps,” trumpeters Nick Nguyen and Gabe Rua were honored for their performances at Memorial Day events over the past three years.

The Highlander Bagpipe Band played “Amazing Grace,” and Linda Turner performed the national anthem and “God Bless America,” the latter performance ending the ceremony.

tlederer@thereminder.com | + posts