Former American Legion Post 33 Commander Bob Kennelly lays a wreathe in at a memorial in front of the Meredith Public Library. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
May 31, 2017MEREDITH — Townspeople honored those who sacrificed their lives for their country during the town's annual Memorial Day Parade.
Members of American Legion Post 33 joined local scouts, student musicians, and many others in the annual parade on Monday morning. A Legion honor guard led the parade to a number of cemeteries around town and held the main ceremony in front of the Meredith Public Library.
"What began as a tribute to Civil War soldiers 140 years ago now honors all those who died serving our country," said Jeanie Forrester.
Forrester noted that since the Revolution, over 1 million Americans have died in military service.
"Each one of them has a hometown and loved ones who are missing them today," Forrester said.
Elliott Finn, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, spoke about the meaning and history of the day.
"Memorial Day is the time we as Americans meet to reconnect with our history by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals we hold dear," Finn said.
Finn and the honor guard honored former American Legion Post 33 Commander Bob Kennelly. Kennelly organized the Memorial Day Parade and many other events for many years, though stepped down this year.
"I would like to personally recognize Bob for the work he has done for all his fellow veterans," Finn said.
Finn told the story of how Memorial Day started with the practice of decorating soldier's graves during the Civil War and later became Decoration Day. Following the World Wars, Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1971.
Finn said there were ceremonies going on all over the country in places like Meredith.
"Your presence here is the true expression of Memorial Day," Finn said. "You are here to honor fallen Americans by your presence."
He later added, "We owe a great debt of gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives so we can live free, not as slaves."
The parade ended at Hesky Park with a tribute to POW/MIA's. Guest speaker Karen Thurston, president of the New Hampshire Blue Star Mothers, said the families of POW/MIA's do not have any place to lay a wreath.
She talked about Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Crosby, who was shot down during Rolling Thunder in Vietnam. After being missing for 52 years, his remains were found in a fishing pond and later positively identified through DNA. Thurston said Crosby's daughter welcomed him home the day before.
"No parades, no awards, no marching bands; she went 52 years waiting for her father to come home," Thurston said.
Thurston said when her son is deployed for service, she will prepare for the worst until she gets that phone call that he is on the plane home.
"Today we need to stand together and support these families because they need us to help them remember," Thurston said. "We will not give up hope. I ask that you do this in faith, honor, and trust that we will bring each of our lost veterans home."
Bob Jones of the Northeast POW/MIA Network explained why the vigils continue at the Rock at Hesky Park after all these years. Jones spoke of the change in terminology away from "POW/MIA" by the Department of Defense, which he said has had several department heads in the past few years. He said this does not create a feeling that those serving are being kept from harm's way.
"If that was my son or my daughter I would not feel confident they were being looked after," Jones said. "It's a shame, it's dishonorable that they're treated how they're treated. We're not going to stop because there's some of us who are not going to give up."