BELMONT — During the Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the Belmont American Legion Post 58, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Mauck, spoke about the importance of chaplains in the military and their role in protecting the nation.
Mauck, a Vietnam veteran and Army chaplain, provided a brief history of chaplains in the military stating that by law there must now be one chaplain for every one hundred thousand members of each denomination fighting in the war. Throughout the history of conflicts involving Americans, new chaplains emerged to new meet the needs of growing denominations, such as the Roman Catholic's in the Mexican War, Jews during the Civil War, and an Muslims in the 1990's. Mauck noted Israel Evans as the first chaplain from New Hampshire who was part of the N.H. militia during the Revolutionary War, who is depicted in a painting in the New Hampshire Stathouse.
Mauck also took a moment to tell the story of the four chaplains from World War II who saved the lives of various soldiers on the USS Dorchester after it was torpedoed by an enemy U-boat. The Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and United Methodist chaplains distributed all of the life jackets including their own to the soldiers in need, before praying and locking arms before they died. Following the event, individuals pushed to have a chapel built in the Pentagon in their honor, however Mauck stated the Pentagon declined the proposal and instead a monument was built in Durham, N.H. Following 9/11, however, a chapel was built in honor of all the chaplains who have given their time and lives to this nation. In this building there is a memorial to the four chaplains from World War II.
Mauck concluded his address stating that these are just a few examples of how chaplains and service members give their lives for the nation. "We deserve the best," states Mauck, "and we've got it."
Local officers from the Belmont Police Force were joined by the Belmont High School marching band, the local Boy and Girl Scout troops, and the Cub Scouts during the procession toward the memorial where the annual ceremony is held. The annual raising of the flag was performed by Legion members Tyler Best and Harold R. "Rich" Stanely.
Belmont American Legion Commander Steve Bracy conducted the service, stating that Memorial Day is a sacred day of the year that should be remembered and celebrated by all. He continued by emphasizing the importance of honoring those who have given their lives to defend the country and flag, as well as their dedication to assuring the nation's freedom. Bracy's sentiment was echoed by Pastor Jim Smith who provided the opening prayer honoring all those who have fought and are currently fighting for our nation.
A moment of silence was observed in memory of World War II veterans Herbert A. Prescott, Phillip O. Swain, Ernest B. Piper, Arthur M. Hackett, and Harleig C. Brown; Vietnam veteran, Seven C. Stanty; Korean War veteran, Leo J. Rolfe; and Air Force veteran, John J. Moynihan. Additionally recognized was first responder and former two time American Legion Commander and Financial Officer Leonard B. Hooker,, who passed away this year. Bracy stated that Hooker was always supporting the post, and will be greatly missed.
The ceremony commenced with Bracy thanking the local service members, and high school band members Malia Lundahl and Eric Osgood performed taps during the ceremony. "Way too many men and women have died so that we may have life," said Bracy. "All will know that it was not in vain though as we go forward with their courage and strength."