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)
By ROGER AMSDEN, 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.
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)
05-30 Memorial Day 3
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