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Veteran walks Medford Memorial Day Parade route alone

Retired U.S. Air Force Airman 3rd Class Walter Maresco, 75, on Monday walked the route of what would have been the Medford Memorial Day Parade, and then watched with other veterans during a drive-by parade at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2937. Credit: Randee Daddona

Walter Maresco walked the Memorial Day Parade route in Medford on Monday wearing a combat helmet and green fatigues.

He carried a prisoner-of-war/missing-in-action flag.

Although Maresco, 75, of Medford, made the 1-mile trek alone, where he stopped at multiple memorials and saluted, he said his fallen comrades were with him, too.

"All the vets we are doing this for, are with me, behind me."

The coronavirus altered the hamlet's traditional Memorial Day Parade on Monday. But Maresco said rain or shine, he would always walk the route because of sacrifices veterans have made for the country.

“I made a promise to myself and to them, and to God, for the men who couldn’t come back, that each time, I would do it."

Maresco is the commander of Medford's American Legion John R. Cacioppo Post 1848. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in the mid-1960s, when he volunteered to go to Vietnam where he served more than a year in Cam Rahn Bay.

Maresco, who attained the rank of airman 1st class with the Air Force, said simply, “I love my country. I love my family,” which was why he didn’t hesitate when he was called to war.

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Medford's modified 2020 version of the holiday parade consisted of a motorcade of police vehicles flashing their lights and blaring their sirens, a fleet of fire trucks, and motorists waving miniature American flags from their open windows. Other participants held up signs such as "Thank You For Your Service." 

But there were no marching units. No crowds of spectators lining the sidewalks.

Medford's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2937, where Maresco is a chaplain, organized the drive-by parade.

Altering the hamlet's event because of coronavirus was the right call, Maresco said.

“There will be too many people standing next to each other and maybe some people don’t have masks on. We would make the pandemic worse,” he said. “We have an enemy that we can’t even see, and it’s killing us.”

Nancy Young of Medford spoke Monday from the VFW.

Young's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Kremm, was killed in a mortar attack in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Oct. 27, 2005. He was 24 years old.

"Today means everything for him to be remembered," she said of her son. "People forget, they tend to forget. And it's every day for me and every day for a lot of us."

Young said the freedoms Americans enjoy are because of heroes like her son.

"Don't forget to raise a glass for the people who made it possible for us to have these barbecues," she said.

With Randee Daddona

Correction: Walter Maresco attained the rank of airman 1st class with the Air Force. An earlier version of this story misstated his rank.

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