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Celebrate the early Memorial Day fete

  • A World War I solider in Concord, New Hampshire. Courtesy of James W. Spain

For the Monitor
Published: 5/24/2019 5:38:27 PM
Modified: 5/24/2019 5:38:14 PM

Emily and her two young sons rose early on Friday, May 30, 1919.

The cold winter months were in the past and the shadows danced beneath the leaf-covered maple tree in the side yard. The scent of lilacs filled the air as her two boys gathered flowers and handed them to their mother who promptly tied them together with a beautiful ribbon. She added water to a large jar and placed her fragrant offering into the cold water.

Moments later, she slowly walked up North State Street past Fosterville towards the Blossom Hill Cemetery. The day was young as she traversed the unpaved streets of Concord, though many people were about tending to the same duty this Decoration Day.

The procession was quite solemn for Emily, who planned a visit with Martin, the father to her two young sons. The last image of her love was the day he departed from the Concord train depot with local soldiers. Singing patriotic songs with many an embrace, the soldiers were destined to fight in the Great War overseas. Some returned to Concord and were sentenced to relive the war over and over each night as they slept, while others simply never returned.

Emily learned her husband Martin perished in the war and his remains were returned to Concord. To the same train depot that Martin had departed a year prior, his flagged draped coffin did return.

Emily remembered Martin as he smiled with a twinkle in his blue eyes, waving as the soldiers bid their last farewell to family and friends as they departed Concord.

Decoration Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery. It was by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic that mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Gen. James Garfield made a speech in front of 5,000 mourners while the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated.

For a period of time prior to the proclamation by Gen. John A. Logan, there were many local observances for a period of a few years with several cities claiming to be the originators of the first Decoration Day.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson finally declared the birthplace of the first Decoration Day to be Waterloo, N.Y., because this town had celebrated the day for the very first time on May 5, 1866, closing businesses and decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

It was not until 1971 that Decoration Day was officially recognized by the United States government and then commonly referred to as the Memorial Day that we honor to this day.

With the celebrations in Concord, parades, tributes and visits to our departed family members, we take time to remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Emily spent time with Martin on May 30, 1919. She remembered with pride her soldier that fought to protect the freedom that we are all fortunate to enjoy to this day. She placed the jar with the fresh lilacs in front of the stone where Martin found eternal peace. She hoped that his final moments were without fear and only filled with the love that they found together with their young family. She prayed solemnly with both of her sons and told stories about his heroism and what it meant to the people.

Martin was a good husband, father and soldier and he would continue to be memorialized each May by his family until Emily joined him here at Blossom Hill.

The shadows were growing long as Emily and her boys walked to the duck pond and enjoyed a simple lunch. Emily stared at her reflection in the pond but only saw Martin. He was smiling with a twinkle in his blue eyes, waving as he bid farewell.

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