AMHERST -- More than a hundred public safety personnel, elected officials and scouts of all ages filled VFW Post 754 Monday for Memorial Day ceremonies held inside after the annual parade was canceled because of the threat of rain.
A contingent of scouts and veterans marched from the Town Common to the VFW anyway and the rain held off until the end of the events, but officials decided to be safe rather than sorry.
Rob McAllister, a member of the Airborne Long-Range Surveillance and Reconnaissance team who participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, told those in attendance that serving in the military is "about selfless service."
"It's about people who went and fought for this country and unfortunately lost their lives on the foreign field of battle," said McAllister, who was awarded a Purple Heart as well as the Bronze Star with Valor.
McAllister said he attended Norwich University -- a private military college in Northfield, Vermont -- but decided a military career wasn't for him. So, he became a ski bum for a while and took classes at other schools.
But then came the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "I was upset... I wanted to fight for my country," he said.
He understood then that joining the military is "the most selfless thing."
"There's that thing that's bigger than you as an individual. I will never do something as big as serving my country," he said.
Before she offered her prayer, VFW Chaplain Anita Morris read an excerpt from a story in the Air Force Times to link the ceremonies to the contemporary struggles of war, to remind people that the day is more than just cookouts.
"This fall will mark 16 years that American troops have been engaged in Afghanistan fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban -- a war of unprecedented duration," she read.
The passage noted that some of today's soldiers serving in Afghanistan were toddlers at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and that more than 2,000 American soldiers have died there while another 20,000 have been wounded.
"Even as we commemorate the past, we must consider the many dangers we are confronting today and those that lie ahead," she read.
Veterans Director Steven Connor, state Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, and Select Board member Connie Kruger also spoke.
Goldstein-Rose read a Memorial Day proclamation from Gov. Charlie Baker.
The ceremonies also included the reading of the names of veterans who died in the last year.