Memorial Day started as way to honor those who died in Civil War

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Eddie Bird plays the echo of Taps during the Memorial Day service at Lang Cemetery in Meredith along the parade route from Main Street to Hesky Park Monday morning.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


MEREDITH — Korean War veteran Master Sgt. Elliott Finn recounted the history of Memorial Day as he spoke in front of the town library during Monday's Memorial Day observance.
Noting that the day is set aside to honor ''the thousands of Americans who answered the last roll call," Finn said that formerly known as Decoration Day, the holiday originated after the Civil War to remember the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war, the most deadly in American history, which claimed over 600,000 lives.
He said the origin of the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in that war is traced by many historians back to the early days of that war in the southern states and it was established as a national observance by General Josh Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868.
Finn said that the first widely-publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865.
He quoted a Wikipedia article that reads ''During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865 which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled 'Martyrs of the Race Course.' Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children, newly enrolled in freedmen's schools, as well as mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. The site of the remembrance celebration would come to be called the 'First Decoration Day' in the North.''
Speaking at the same ceremony, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) thanked all the parents who had shown up and brought their children with them, saying that it is important for those children to know the meaning of Memorial Day and the sacrifices previous generations have made to preserve freedom.
She also praised the efforts of the former commander of the Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post 33, Bob Kennelly, for his role over the last decade in organizing the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies in Meredith.
The ceremony in front of the library was preceded by a parade, led by a color guard, which stepped off from American Legion Post #33 and feature and a caravan of vintage automobiles, trucks and the Meredith Fire Department's original fire engine, as well as the Inter-Lakes High School marching band.
Ceremonies then moved to Hesky Park, site of the state's original POW-MIA Memorial, where Robert Weeks, a local member of the Northeast POW-MIA Network, reminded those present of the plight of those families who do not know what happened to their loved ones who went of to war and never returned.
The memorial will be the site of the 23rd annual New Hampshire Freedom Ride sponsored by the Northeast POW-MIA Network on June 16 this year.
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Master Sgt. Elliott Finn, a Korean War veteran, spoke at the Memorial Day ceremony in Meredith on Monday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Memorial Day in Gilford


GILFORD — The raindrops stopped just in time for Memorial Day remembrances and parade Monday morning.

With color guards from both the police and fire departments, a wreath was laid by two members of the Girl Scouts at the World War I and II memorial in the center of Gilford Village.

The parade, which was highlight by Gilford High School marching band, the Girl and Boy Scouts and the huge American flag carried by a number of Gilford veterans.

The parade continued to the Pine Grove Cemetery where a second wreath was laid on the memorial marker by two members of the Boy Scouts.

Selectman Chairman Richard Grenier spoke about the history of Memorial Day, telling the group amassed at the cemetery that it began in the wake of the Civil War but was made a national holiday in after World Wars I and I and The Korean Conflict in 1967.

"We as a nation and as a people have always honored our fallen heroes," said Grenier. "A little bit of each of us was lost as part of that sacrifice."

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Gilford police honor guard, commanded by Master Patrol Officer Doug Wall, who is second from the left, prepare to lead the parade. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Veterans carry the stars and stripes in Gilford's Memorial Day Parade. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Local children wave their flags as the Memorial Day parade steps off from Gilford Village.

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Two Girl Scouts place a wreath on the World War I and II memorial in Gilford Village. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Gilford Selectmen's Chairman Richard Grenier asks for people to remember our fallen veterans every day at Monday's Memorial Day ceremony. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Belmont marks Memorial Day


BELMONT — After marching with the American Legion from the Middle School to the Belmont Memorial near the Tioga River, New Hampshire National Guard Lieutenant Colonial Roy Hunter urged those in attendance to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day.

He said that those who died in armed serviced from 1775 until today are our brothers and fathers, sisters and mothers, friends, neighbors and co-workers who lead ordinary lives until they lost them in war.

"They were called to arms for a higher purpose. For liberty, justice, equality and freedom from tyranny to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country," he said.

He urged people to remember that our freedoms come at a high price and that Memorial Day is not just another day off.

He also asked people to remember U.S. Army Corporal Scott Diamond of Franklin who died just outside of Kandahar in 2008 and who served as a member of his command. "Freedom comes at a very high price," he said choking back tears.

Belmont's ceremony lasted just over an hour and began at the middle school and wound its way down Main Street to the monument near the Tioga River.

Led by a a four-person color guard of Belmont Police Officers, the parade included a number of veterans who marched or rode, the Boy Scouts who laid a wreath at the monument and the Girl Scouts who threw flowers into the Tioga to remember those who died.

The Belmont High School band played patriotic songs and the rear was brought up by members of the Belmont Fire and Rescue Department.

The color guard fired a three-gun salute and Woody Fogg and Howard Brown raised the flag at the memorial.

At the end of the ceremony, everyone joined hands and sang "God Bless America" as a member of the Belmont High School chorus lead them in song.



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Led by veterans from the American Legion, Belmont's Memorial Day parade heads down Main Street Monday. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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A Belmont family wears patriotic colors as they wait for the parade to pass by. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Members of the American Legion surround the empty chair the town keeps to honor those who are missing in action. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Steve Bracey of the American Legion was the master of ceremonies in Belmont on Memorial Day. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Girls Scouts throw flowers into the Tioga River to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in war. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Lt. Col. Roy Hunter IV of the New Hampshire National Guard delivers his keynote speech at the Memorial Day service in Belmont. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)