Monday’s Memorial Day ceremonies are a time-honored event in the life of our town, ushering in warmer days and marked by a parade, a silent procession to local cemeteries and monuments, the laying of geraniums at the graves of soldiers, and the playing of taps. Year after year, townsfolk who follow the honor guard from the Civil War memorial to Center Cemetery to the town center monuments are walking in the footsteps of generations who have come before, doing their part to ensure that an important community tradition endures.
Memorial Day began as a remembrance of those who died in the Civil War. The tradition is one that’s been repeated in towns throughout New England ever since. The years that followed that terrible conflict were a time when families and veterans struggled to cope with the loss of loved ones and comrades in a war that claimed many thousands of lives. But such horrors did not begin in April 1861, nor did they end in 1865. In some ways, the country never recovered from the carnage of the Civil War and its brutal aftermath.
When we honor those who fell in war, we tend to think of battlefields—Yorktown, Gettysburg, the Marne, D-Day, Khe Sanh, Fallujah. But beyond those who died in such battles are those who died of illness or in captivity, those killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or accidents. And we must also think of those whose service to our country left them traumatized or depressed to the point of suicide.
This is a day to honor all those who, in military service, went places they would not otherwise have gone and faced dangers they would not otherwise have met.
It is not a political holiday; it’s a day to reflect and remember, with gratitude, lives that have been sacrificed in the name of freedom and from a sense of duty to one’s country.
As we commemorate Memorial Day again this year, let’s also acknowledge our responsibility to prevent casualties far from the battlefield by providing our veterans with the care they need, whatever the cost.
Editor’s Note: Portions of this text were published in an editorial in the May 27, 2022, edition of the Press.