Monday 29th May 2017, saw another Memorial Day pass in Somersworth. For some, that means fun at camp, time with the family and for others it is a holiday where we remember the lives of those who gave all in battle.
My Monday morning like many others started at Forest Glade cemetery and would end at the American Legion. So as I always say let’s start at the beginning and take a trip to Forest Glade cemetery.
A Time To Reflect
I arrived at about 9am just as the veterans of the Somersworth VFW and American Legion Post 69 began to arrive. There is one place in my Forest Glade that I always visit on Memorial Day and pay my respects. There is a veterans grave stone that sits behind the Furber Chapel.
The name on the stone is Harry W. Campbell. Harry was buried in the spot in Forest Glade reserved by the American Legion for veterans with no plot of there own. He served in two conflicts, the Spanish American and World War 1. He would have served in World War 2 had the army let him but he was deemed unfit due to his age. All that remains of Harry’s life is his uniform and a tin box that holds everything that he ever held dear. Letters from his mother, his military records and some other small mementos. That uniform and tin are housed in the Summersworth Historical Museum and each and every Memorial day I take the walk and silently thank him for his service before the services begin in earnest.
I never knew Harry in life but it makes no difference to me. I never knew many of those that we honor on Memorial day either. I watched as the services began with a sense of pride. As the wreaths were laid, prayers uttered and shots fired, that sense of pride swelled. As I walked back to my car, a damp drizzle began to form as if a reminder that for many of those who had served had endured far worse than hopefully I was likely to ever see in my lifetime.
Let The Parade Begin
At about 11.30am I could be found standing on the corner of Green and Lafyette Streets waiting for the procession to come by. Long before the lead police car reached where I was standing, the sounds of the Somersworth High School Marching Band could be heard. And they were great sounds. The procession was lead by the color guard, who were followed by city officials and the High School Marching Band. Also in attendance were the boy scouts and a host of other community based groups. All were followed by an ambulance from American Ambulance and a Somersworth Fire Engine. It made for quite the sight and those along the route could be heard cheering.
I headed down Lafyette street to Stein Park and stood beside the war memorial and watched as the parade made it’s way down Main street. A fairly large group had gathered to watch the proceedings that were follow shortly. There Mayor Hilliard delivered a poignant speech to a silent and attentive crowd.
Lest We Forget
He reminded all in attendance that, “Each year we gather to remember, each year the crowds get smaller, each year veterans who defended our righteous destiny pass. That “Since the founding of our nation, each year we have interred the bodies of those whose dreams were cut short. Of those who never returned home to feel the warmth of their families. Those, who willingly gave, so that the flame of freedom could continue to burn.”
He went on to remind those present that, “We owe more than parades, we owe more than speeches, and we owe more than the rows of flags identifying them as historic heroes.” We owe the souls of those left who left their bodies under the horror and agony of war, to deliver on the promise of “All men created equal.”
As the four wreaths representing the four branches of the services were laid it was hard not to feel a sense of pride. Then came once more the sound of the taps, always a haunting reminder of the cost of battle for me. As the war memorial services concluded we began the march down to the Berwick/Somersworth bridge in order to honor those lost at sea.
At the bridge as is customary a handful if white carnations were thrown from the bridge. Three volleys were fired to mark the passing of those who were lost at sea during their service. Watching those white carnations float past me, is another powerful reminder to me, that some never return from a conflict. Their souls forever cast into the wind, the sea and all that we are.
So concluded another Memorial Day ceremony here in Somersworth. I will end this article by thanking each and everyone who has served and continues to do so. Their families and the American Legion and the VFW who continue the traditions of memorial day. Lest we forget!