HYANNIS, Mass. –
It was a part of a Memorial Day tribute that most people on Cape Cod missed; but that didn’t deter Matthew Perkins or Randy Hough.
“I believe in the memory of my fellow Soldiers,” said Hough, “This is where they needed me, this is where I am.”
Where they were needed was on a flag-lined platform of a tractor trailer that sat overlooking Route 132; and for one hour each, the first beginning at 2:00 a.m., the second at 3:00 a.m., they stood at attention in their Army dress uniforms, holding their unit’s guidon, 181st Engineer Company (Vertical), Massachusetts Army National Guard, and stared out over a empty stretch of roadway.
They were standing in memory of those who lost their lives while serving in wartime, those wounded and injured and those who are currently deployed.
“We’re all in it together,” said Pfc. Perkins, an infantryman who is transferring to the engineers, “If you have a brother, you’re going to be there for your brother no matter what … he’s your family. Anyone that puts on a uniform is my brother.”
And so they stood on that illuminated platform overlooking the road; occasionally a vehicle would pass by, a few sounded their horns.
“You stay focused on whatever you can see in front of you,” said Spc. Hough, an interior electrician, “[I] was a little stiff walking off the stage.”
The Soldier’s were taking part in ‘Troops in the Spotlight’; a simple concept where service members from the all components of the armed services (to include the U.S. Coast Guard) stand, in uniform and at attention for one hour, over the course of a 24-hour period. The program is part of a Memorial Day observance put on by Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops.
Dylan DeSilva started the group eight years ago when he was 12, as a way to send care packages to deployed service members.
“Instead of having barbeques,” said DeSilva, “We’re doing what we should be doing on Memorial Day … remembering all of our servicemen and servicewomen.”
So DeSilva and his group reached out to area service members and asked for ideas.
“They wanted to stand at attention; to represent the men and women serving over in Iraq and Afghanistan, that couldn’t be here,” said Michelle DeSilva, Dylan’s mother and the group’s secretary/treasurer, “They felt that this was a great tribute to the fallen heroes as well as those currently serving.”
It is a simple, but powerful display of honor and respect.
“This was the first time I’ve been to this event,” said Capt. Adam Peterson, commander, 181st Engineer Company (Vertical) and an Iraqi Campaign Veteran. “It’s blown me away … it’s very impressive. My first tour, we received a lot of the care packages Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops put together.”
During the day, while the troops are standing on the flatbed, there are other events taking place as part of the program. Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops has set up an area where people can drop off donations for the care packages and there is a wooden wall, a modern version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., bearing the names of those killed by enemy action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As dawn broke, Sgt. Maria Wood prepared to take her place on the podium alongside an Air Force sergeant and a Coast Guard Petty Officer.
“It’s a very humbling experience … to see all the support … to meet all the Gold Star Families, ” said Wood, an automated logistics specialist, 151st Regional Support Group, “As your toes are numbing … your knees are locking up and aching, you’re back is killing you … it’s all worth it. You forget all about that when you think of the families (who lost a loved one).”
Cynthia Deslauriers lost her son, Army Sgt. Mark Vecchione, in Iraq when an improvised explosive detonated. Seeing the troops standing there in memoriam was meaningful.
“Memorial Day is a bittersweet day for me,” said Deslauriers, “I miss my son like crazy and wish he were here. Being a Gold Star Mom, you don’t want your child ever to be forgotten. To these … (service members) … up there … it means that they still care for this country and for the fallen.”