Memorial Day services in Wolfeboro began at Brewster Field, where veteran and members of the Kingswood Regional High School band assembled. American Legion Post 18 Commander Harold Chamberlin (right) lowered the flag to half-mast, "Taps" was played near and far, and a three shot volley was done to honor the fallen. For more scenes from Wolfeboro's Memorial Day, see page A14. (Photo by Thomas Beeler) (click for larger version)
May 30, 2018WOLFEBORO — Under somber skies last Monday, Wolfeboro remembered its fallen in Memorial Day ceremonies.
The annual Memorial Day parade began in Brewster Field with American Legion Commander Harold Chamberlin lowering the flags to half mast before a color guard of veterans from all branches of military service and the Kingswood Regional High School marching band. The Legion Auxiliary ladies placed a wreath in front of the Civil War monument, "Taps" were played near and far and three shots were fired to honor those who fell during that conflict.
With traffic control provided by Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro police, the color guard and band marched down South Main Street to Carpenter School and the downtown post office to perform the same memorial services before the memorials to WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam fallen veterans. The parade ended at the Wolfeboro Community Bandstand at dockside. There members of the Legion Auxiliary scattered flower petals on the waters of the bay to recognize those servicemen lost at sea.
Despite the threatening weather, the turnout of veterans and their families and spectators was high, and people were solemn and attentive at each location.
This year at the bandstand ceremony there were not one but two speakers, both Vietnam War veterans.
Joe Ewing of Tuftonboro spoke on the origins in 1868 of Memorial Day, which was first called Decoration Day. The graves of the 650,000 soldiers, Union and Confederate, killed in the recent Civil War were decorated with flowers in the spring. General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic led a movement to set aside a day to decorate the graves as long as those who survived the conflict still lived. WWI, in which 205,000 Americans died, renewed interest in observing a Memorial Day. Different days were chosen by the states at first and it was not until 1967 that a specific day in May was made a national day of remembrance.
Ewing noted that on Memorial Day we remember the sacrifices of men and women who fought in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and "over 70 other non-declared conflicts," including fighting in Syria.
He concluded his address by quoting President Ronald Reagan, who spoke at the Arlington National Cemetery in 1986: "Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It is important for Americans to take the time to remember the sacrifices that bought their freedom."
Col. Bob Ness directed his remarks to members of the Kingswood Regional High School band as the young people who will shape the future. "I count you as among the most important people here today . . . Funerals are for the living, not the dead. So, too, are these observances," he said.
To make his point he spoke of three young men from Wolfeboro: Harry, Clayton, and Matthew. "For each of these three the most significant event in the decade after the ninth grade was their date with destiny. How they died is not important. That they answered their country's call at a time of need is. That is why we are here today."
Harry was Harry Harriman, the first World War I soldier from Wolfeboro to die in battle. Clayton was Clayton Hale, remembered as "The First to Die" from Wolfeboro in World War II. Their names have been forever linked together in the name of the Harriman-Hale American Legion Post #18. Matthew is Matthew Stanley for whom the Smith River Bridge on Center Street was renamed in 2010.
Ness urged the students to think for themselves and not let their minds be closed by such things as "political correctness."
In closing, he advised heeding the words of President John Kennedy in his inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."