LACONIA — Residents joined their counterparts from across the state and around the United States yesterday to mark Memorial Day in tribute and homage to those members of the armed forces who gave their lives to create the nation, preserve the union and defend the country.
The day began with a parade through downtown, led by a military color guard followed by city officials, officers of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and John Mont, a former prisoner of war riding in vintage Army truck. All moved to the strains of the Laconia High School marching band.
Earlon Beale, post adjutant of of Wilkins Smith Post 1 of the American Legion welcomed the crowd to Veterans Square, where Don Sorensen of the VFW delivered the invocation. The choral group from Laconia High School, directed by Deb Gibson, sang the national anthem and, with those gathered at the square signing along, "God Bless America."
"I am proud to represent all the residents of Laconia," began Mayor Ed Engler, "by marching in this parade and participating in this event to honor our war dead." Born and raised in a small town in South Dakota, he recalled that his earliest memory of Memorial Day was of his father donning his uniform and marching in a parade to the cemetery. Noting that the Second World War had ended several years earlier, he said that nearly everyone in town attended the ceremony wearing red silk poppies.
Engler recalled that during World War II, 16 million of the country's 130 million people were called to service and 400,000 lost their lives.. "Every community was touched," he said, including Laconia, where more than 2,000 took up arms, Of those, 38 did not survive, noted Engler, who then proceeded to read their names aloud. "We keep the flame of eternal vigilance in their name," the mayor closed.
Beale urged his listeners never to forget America's veterans and their families, to whom all those who enjoy the bounty and freedom the nation offers are indebted. Remarking that many veterans are aging in years and suffering from ailments, he declared "as long as we have our health we'll be here to help you remember."
Beale, together with Bill North, commander of VFW Post 1670, laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial of those 2,000 as high school student Sebastian Huot, echoed by Mikayla Minor, sounded "Taps."