Both leaving their posts, two men reflect on their efforts to honor war dead in Concord

  • Paul Lloyd, president of the Concord Veterans Council, salutes during the Memorial Day ceremonies in front of the State House on Monday, May 28, 2018. Lloyd is retiring after many years of organizing the parade. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord City Councilor Byron Champlin greets Paul Lloyd, president of the Concord Veterans Council, before the Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 28, 2018, in Concord. Lloyd, is retiring from his post on the council, unable to continue as a virtual one-man show after organizing the downtown parade for years. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Cub Scout Pack 90 members Gavin Robichaud (center) and Lucas Roberts lead the way down Main Street in Concord at the Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 28, 2018. The Scout leader had just told the pack to raise their flags high. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jack Wade, 3, sits on his father’s shoulders as they look over the memorial wall in front of the State House during the ceremonies on Monday, May 28, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • State Department official and interpreter Diana Li from the World Affairs Council talks with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster for a group of Chinese officials here for a meeting at University of New Hampshire School of Law this week. Kuster was a speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 28, 2018 and stopped to talk to the group as they were sightseeing in downtown Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Attendees pause at the Memorial wall at City Plaza in front of the State House on Monday, May 28, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Marines Bob Selig (left) and Bill Shaw wave as they pull out at the end of the Memorial Day ceremonies at the State House on Monday, May 29, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rundlett Middle School Principal Jim McCollum watches as new sixth-graders are led to their classrooms on the first day of school on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Rundlett Middle School Principal Jim McCollum prepares for a presentation to sixth-graders in his office on the first day of school, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor columnist
Published: 5/28/2018 5:40:45 PM

Paul Lloyd and Jim McCollum are done, and that’s too bad.
   Lloyd, president of the Concord Veterans Council, is retiring from that post, unable to continue as a virtual one-man show after organizing the Memorial Day parade downtown for years.

Like the one held Monday. Maybe you were there.

McCollum, the Rundlett Middle School principal, is moving to Florida to care for his elderly mother, bringing an end to his special tribute on Memorial Day.

Like the one held last Saturday at the school. Perhaps your child was there.

These are two huge blows to the city’s tradition of honoring our war dead, a pair of routines with cloudy futures.

They told veterans we appreciated their sacrifice. They told them we took nothing for granted. They said thanks to those killed while serving.

Now, the men behind these thankless jobs are moving on.

“I don’t have time to do this anymore,” Lloyd told me by phone.

He served in the National Guard from 1983 to ’85, and the Navy from ’85 to ’98, when he began working at Concord Steam. Now he runs his own cleaning business. He’s also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Lloyd started volunteering for the Concord Veterans Council 15 years ago. He became president 10 years ago, and ever since has been the main cog in this wheel of patriotism.

With help from the VFW, the American Legion Post 21 and Marine Corps League, Lloyd coordinated the Memorial Day parade, the flag placement at veterans’ graves and the Veterans Day ceremony held each November in the Hall of Flags at the State House.

The volunteer group for the military-related tributes was always small, maybe six people, but that was enough to find parade marshals and guest speakers, erect podiums, set up chairs, lay wreaths, bring in a color guard – whatever it took to ensure that veterans were being honored in some fashion.

Last year, Lloyd decided to retire, telling the Monitor, “I’m stepping down after Memorial Day because I’ve just got so much other stuff going on that I can’t devote the time to it that I need to.”

Lloyd’s retirement didn’t last long. Once November’s Veterans Day tribute at the Hall of Flags was canceled for the first time in decades due to Lloyd’s absence, he returned to make sure Monday’s Memorial Day parade would be held as scheduled.

Bruce Bailey of American Legion Post 21 lent a hand, and Dan Vallone, a younger Concord veteran, pitched in as well. But longtime treasurer Joe Shea died recently at age 81, making the already-small roster of volunteers even smaller.

Still, Lloyd said he’s retiring this time. He’s the state adjutant for the VFW, “and that keeps me hopping,” he told me.

He’s also running for national junior vice commander-in-chief for the VFW, which means major campaigning for a post that includes 11 states and part of Europe.

“The ranks are getting older, and I’m not able to do as much,” he said.

Lloyd mentioned the pride Concord-area residents take in creating tributes to those who have served. In fact, he mentioned McCollum and said a few words at the Rundlett principal’s ceremony last Friday.

McCollum moved from the Laconia School District to Rundlett in the fall of 2016, meaning he had time to stage only two Memorial Day events before his ailing mother in Florida needed him to move south.

His final installment was held on a cloudless day in front of the American Flag, near the school’s main entrance. McCollum opened by telling the entire school, “This is a day that merits our consideration.”

He introduced faculty members, like social studies teacher Robert Brown, who served in Afghanistan, and he reminded students that 50,000 soldiers were killed during one Civil War battle.

“That’s the entire population of Concord,” Brown said, hoping to provide context and power.

Matt Cashman, the school district’s director of planning, served in the Navy during Desert Storm. He said he took the oath to defend the Constitution in 1989, but did not comprehend or appreciate what that meant until two years later.

He assisted on a mission to find a crashed American helicopter. All seven on board were found dead.

“I did not fully grasp the reality of the commitment in 1989,” Cashman told the students. “I do understand now.”

McCollum never served. Instead, he traveled around the world while his father did. McCollum made sure the crowd knew that gold-star lapels issued to families who had lost someone in battle began in 1947.

He made sure that they knew about a poem written by a soldier during World War I, scribbled furiously with death all around him, introduced a red flower called the Poppy as the flower signifying blood spilled in war, and that the Buddy Poppy was adopted as the official flower of the VFW in 1922.

And he wanted the kids to know about his father, Capt. James P. McCollum. He told them the captain was a helicopter pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War. He was rescued, then shot down again on May 23, 1968.

This time he wasn’t found until six months later. This time, he went down in history as killed in action, and that meant his name ended up on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., also known as The Wall, along with 58,000 other Americans killed in that war.

“Row 66E,” the captain’s son said.

McCollum was 5 when his father died; the captain 31. McCollum’s mother never remarried, and now, in her senior years, she needs help in Florida, so McCollum’s Memorial Day tribute at Rundlett, like the projects overseen by Lloyd, will need new leadership.

“Getting that support is getting harder each year,” McCollum said, sitting in his office as his career in Concord was winding down. “The VFW people are getting older, and maybe others are not coming up to take their spots.”

The Rundlett ceremony ended with a student, standing in the distance and dressed in black bow tie and white short-sleeved button-down shirt, blowing taps. He was joined by two other buglers, who stood up front, flanking the lectern.

Afterward, with hundreds of students pouring through the school’s front doors, 12-year-old Olivia Blanchard told me her grandfather served as a medic. She said her parents remind her about the importance of paying tribute to service members on this particular weekend.

“They’ve talked to me,” Blanchard said. “Remember who sacrificed and that it’s really important to respect them.”

Austin Freire, also 12, said his grandfather built bridges during the Korean War. Freire wore his Boy Scout uniform for the event. McCollum had requested it.

“It really meant to me that people actually gave their lives, and if not for them America would be very different,” Freire said. “We’ve had a short nation’s history, and we have people who died to defend it.”

And we’ve had people like McCollum and Lloyd, who made sure we remembered that important fact of life.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304, or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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