Traditional Memorial Day Parade serves as necessary celebration, commemoration

Veteran Nicholas Rossi’s grandson and namesake talks about how his grandfather inspires him with his bravery during his speech on Veteran’s Green.

Photo by Chloe Murray '22

Veteran Nicholas Rossi’s grandson and namesake talks about how his grandfather inspires him with his bravery during his speech on Veteran’s Green.

Westport Memorial Day Parade returns for 2021

Chloe Murray '22, Public Relations Director

May 25, 2020 was a day spent honoring veterans who have served the country in groups no more than 10 as COVID-19 peaked and fears of contamination were at an all-time high. May 31, 2021 was a drastically different day. Dozens of teams and organizations gathered with banners and instruments to march through downtown Westport, waving to locals and driving in the back of pick-up trucks triumphantly. Yet while both days looked immensely different, the common goal of commemorating veterans endured.

 The Memorial Day Parade is an annual Westport tradition, and its cancellation last year seemed to lead to an amplified sense of emotion and spirit this past Monday. 

“[This year], it’s a chance for us all to come back out and get together, after a very long year,” Town of Westport employee Douglas Meier said. “We see every single little-leaguer. We see the softball teams, we see the soccer teams, we see the marching violins. It’s a chance for everyone in the community to get together on this one day and celebrate something that means a lot to a lot of people.” 

The annual parade serves as an important childhood staple for many Westport residents, to which Kayla Sirlin ’19 can attest. 

“I grew up going to the Memorial Day Parade when I was younger, and I haven’t been here for a bunch of years so it’s nice to be back and see everything,” Sirlin said. “For me it’s a reminder of my childhood and my past because I would always march with travel soccer and rec soccer and there are a lot of good memories.” 

For others, the tradition is just getting started. Second-grader Mila Carvino marched for the first time this year.

“[I marched with] my softball team,” Mila Carvino said. “I liked the signs and the marching.”

Following the loud, joyous parade came a ceremony on the Veterans Green lawn adjacent to Town Hall, more reverently honoring veterans and this year’s Grand Marshal, a specially chosen veteran to commemorate. This year’s grand marshal was Nicholas Rossi Sr.

Rossi is a 98-year-old Westport resident who served in the Air Force during World War II. He was a four-sport athlete at his high school in Oyster Bay, New York, before being enlisted to the army at age 19. He became a technical sergeant who flew multiple bombing missions over Nazi-occupied central Europe, trouble-shooting technical malfunctions. He served from December, 1942 to March,1945.

Typically, the Grand Marshal gives a speech of gratitude to the crowd, but with Rossi’s mobility limitations, he asked his grandson, Nick Rossi, Jr. ’20, to deliver a speech. After sharing some horrific stories that his grandfather had recounted to him about his time in the Air Corps, Rossi, Jr. paid his respect to veterans everywhere.

““He reminds us how awful war is, and what the price for peace really costs in terms of soldiers’ lives lost.””

— Nick Rossi, Jr. '20

 “These recollections are unfathomable to me, and to this day remain disturbing to him,” Rossi Jr. said. “He reminds us how awful war is, and what the price for peace really costs in terms of soldiers’ lives lost. 

First Selectman Jim Marpe told the crowd in his speech that, even with the chaos striking Earth last year, a small group of people came down to Veteran’s Green and honored the soldiers in a socially distanced manner. Patricia Wettach had been selected as the 2020 general marshal under the theme “Honoring Women Veteran”, and while that theme carried over into the 2021 parade, Wettach sadly passed this January. She was enlisted in the United States Navy, where she served in Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) for two years.This year’s ceremony made sure to honor both Wettach and Rossi, along with all other veterans. 

“It is on a day like today,” Rossi Jr. said, “when we remember with enormous gratitude what these men, and women, and all the fallen veterans of war, did to guarantee our freedom, liberty and democracy.”