Dan Hovanesian to be parade Grand Marshall
By Elizabeth Sheeran
Somerville will remember all those who gave their lives for their country on Sunday, May 27, with a daylong program of events, including the largest Memorial Day parade in the state.
“It’s a day to honor those who have passed, who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Bob Hickey, a member of the Allied Veterans Council. “It’s a time to remember them and to show our appreciation for what they have given.”
The day will begin at 8 a.m. with a procession from the American Legion Post #19, at 124 Highland Avenue, to lay wreaths on monuments in Central Hill Park by the Central Library.
The parade will kick off at 1 p.m. from City Hall, proceeding 2.3 miles along Highland Avenue to the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery at Teele Square, where the Allied Veterans Council will lead a ceremony of remembrance for fallen Somerville veterans. Street closures and parking restrictions will be in effect in the area along the parade route between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Veterans, police and fire fighters from Somerville and surrounding communities will march in the parade, along with a wide range of community groups and the Boston Breakers professional women’s soccer team, whose home field is now at Somerville’s Dilboy Stadium. The parade lineup will also include a dozen marching bands and the popular specialty units of the Aleppo Shriners.
Presiding over the parade will be this year’s Grand Marshall Dan Hovanesian, a decorated Marine Corps veteran and long-time Somerville resident, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971.
“It’s a phenomenal honor. It came out of nowhere,” said Hovanesian of being asked to serve as the Grand Marshall. He said he initially wanted to decline, suggesting parade organizers instead choose a veteran from Iraq or Afghanistan. “This is their time. My time was a long time ago,” he said.
But city Veterans Affairs Director Jay Weaver said Hovanesian was chosen because he is a local model of a true hero. “He doesn’t like to brag about it very much, but he did some very heroic things in Vietnam,” said Weaver. “We feel very grateful for his services and are honored he has agreed to be in the parade.”
Hovanesian, who worked as an attorney for many years and raised two children in Somerville with his wife Carol, regularly flew behind enemy lines as a forward artillery observer in Vietnam. He was shot down multiple times and was seriously wounded when a shell exploded next to him.
On the day he was discharged in 1971, he was summoned to his general’s office – he wasn’t told why – where he was presented with three commendations at one time: A Navy Commendation for an incident where his unit was caught in a firefight in April, 1970, a Silver Star for his actions when his helicopter was shot down near Danang on New Years’ Eve, 1970, and a Bronze Star he earned when shot down a second time in March, 1971.
“I never knew that I was even written up for any medals, and three came through in one day,” said Hovanesian, who also earned a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Air Medal, a second Bronze Medal and other awards during his service in Vietnam.
But Hovanesian said it’s not his own service he’ll be thinking of as the Grand Marshall on Sunday, but of all his fellow soldiers who didn’t make it home.
“The names of a lot of people I served with are on the wall in D.C.,” said Hovanesian, referring to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. “It’s a great honor to pay homage to their ultimate sacrifice, and that’s what Memorial Day is about.”
Full details regarding parade-related street closures and parking restrictions are on the City of Somerville website at www.somervillema.gov.