As the nation concludes observances of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary and marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, communities are preparing for the 147th observance of Memorial Day to honor and remember the fallen in all wars.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began May 30, 1868 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion,” according to Gen. John A. Logan’s General Order No. 11, it is now observed on the fourth Monday in May.
Locally, parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, speeches and ceremonial rifle salutes will mark Memorial Day on Monday, May 25.
Hanson Scouts will place flags on veterans’ graves at Fern Hill Cemetery at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 19.
Weekend of events
In Whitman, Duval Elementary School kicks off the weekend of events at 9:30 a.m., Friday, May 22 with its 12th annual We Remember Ceremony of patriotic music, student poetry, honors for deceased veterans and a reception for guest veterans and town officials. Town organizations will begin decorating veterans’ graves in town cemeteries with the help of Boy and Girl Scout troops at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 23.
Dunkin’ Donuts is contributing doughnuts, coffee and juice for the Scouts and troop leaders at the VFW Pavilion at 8 a.m. before the work of placing flags begins.
“We’ve got a good committee — us, the Legion, the DAV,” said chairman Aaron Richardson, a Navy veteran and commander of Whitman VFW Post 697, of the planning group that has been meeting Wednesdays each week as the parade day nears. “Everything seems to be falling into place. It’s something we do for the fallen servicemen and women — it’s in honor and remembrance of them.”
A parade Grand Marshall has been selected and dignitaries have been invited to speak, including state Rep. Geoffrey Diehl, R-Whitman, and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. Replies are still pending, according to Richardson.
“It’s a big day for them,” he said. “I’m sure their schedules are going to be busy — they do multiple engagements.”
Scouts are also being asked to do readings of Logan’s Order, The Gettysburg Address and perhaps a prayer at the WWI Memorial Arch during the parade stops.
Morning observances ahead of the parade on Memorial Day involve wreath-laying and flag ceremonies from 7 to 8:40 a.m. starting at Hill Street Cemetery, then to the Knights of Columbus, St. James Cemetery, Mt. Zion Cemetery and Colebrook Cemetery’s veterans’ lot and the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Lt. John R. Fox.
The parade forms on Court street at 8:45 a.m. and steps off to South Avenue, stopping for ceremonies at the Town Hall Honor Roll, WWI Memorial Arch, Colebrook Cemetery and the flag pole and Civil War Soldiers Monument in Whitman Park.
In Hanson, the parade steps off from Indian Head School at 10 a.m., following a brief 9:45 a.m. ceremony and marches to Town Hall and Fern Hill Cemetery for ceremonies and speeches.
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young will read the Gettysburg Address at Town Hall where ceremonies will include a rifle salute and “Taps.” The day’s keynote speaker will be Maj. Drew Kitchen, who will speak during ceremonies at Fern Hill Cemetery.