MEREDITH — What longtime resident Bob Ambrose called the biggest crowd in 25 years" paid tribute to the men and women of the armed forces who lost their lives in the service of their country during ceremonies here yesterday marked by formal solemnities suiting the occasion as well as unforeseen twists reflecting its authenticity.
Led by a color guard, the parade, featuring a a caravan of vintage automobiles, trucks and a tractor — one convertible graced by Samantha Poirer of Dover, the reigning Miss New Hampshire — rolled up Main Street to the beat of the Inter-Lakes High School marching band to reach the Meredith Public Library right at 10 a.m.
Following the Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance New Hampshire Senator Jeanie Forrester, herself a resident of Meredith reminded her listeners that "we are here to honor our heroes", those with "courage, pride, determination, selflessness and dedication to duty, to causes bigger than themselves." She told the crowd that their presence was a tribute to "the ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things."
Former commander of the Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post 33, Bob Kennelly confessed "I plagiarized this speech," then read an eloquent paean to all those who sacrificed their lives to safeguard the liberty all Americans enjoy. Then, aware the wreaths to be laid at the library and floated on the lake had been left behind at the Legion Hall, he asked "did we get the wreaths yet?" After the wreath was placed at the foot of the flagpole on the library lawn and the strains of taps drifted across Main Street Kennelly remarked "you didn't go shopping,. you didn't go buy a car" and thanked everyone for showing their support of America's veterans, both the quick and the dead.
Ceremonies continued at Hesky Park, where at "The Rock" a vigil in remembrance of American prisoners of war and missing in action has been held every Thursday evening for the past 27 years. Kennelly again paid honor to nation's fallen heroes whose "souls go marching on."" As he drew to a close, the claxon at the Fire Station began to sound. Unruffled, he declared "I couldn't put a better ending on it."
Offering a prayer, Alicia Gorrell, Auxiliary Chaplin of Post 33, eyed the flags waving above "The Rock": "The flag does not fly with the wind that blew it," she said, "but with the last breaths of the men and women who fought for it."
Bob Jones, vice-president of the Northeast POW/MIA Network, also spoke to the flags, stressing the "Honor and Remember Flag", a red and white banner featuring a gold star with a flame at its center, which honors everyone who has died in the service of the country from the Revolutionary War to the present day. The Honor and Remember Foundation awards the standard, with e name of the fallen veteran embroidered on it, to the family. At Hesky Park it flies alongside the Stars and Stripes, state flag and POW/Mia Flag. Jones said that the flag has been presented to 31 families in New Hampshire.
The ceremony closed as Keri Jackman, who served six years in the United States States Navy and another six in the naval reserve, laid the second wreath on the waters of Meredith Bay and the honor guard fired a salute. CAPTIONS:
CAPTION: Aboard a Marine Patrol vessel Keri Jackman, a six-year veteran of the United States Navy, laid a wreath on the waters of Meredith Bay to close the Memorial Day ceremonies at Hesky Park yesterday. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).
CAPTION: New Hampshire Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith and Bob Kennelly, former commander of Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post 33, addressed a large crowd gathered at the Meredith Public Library as the town celebrated Memorial Day yesterday. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)