Seacoast Observes Memorial Day

By Liz Premo

Atlantic News, Thursday, May 29, 2003

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

At the High Street Cemetery, May 26, 2003
[Atlantic News photo by McGee]

HAMPTON — Memorial Day 2003 was observed on a somewhat soggy note in four Seacoast area towns on Monday morning. However, despite weather that turned progressively rainier, the spirit of patriotism displayed by the participants — and by crowds dressed in raingear and huddled under umbrellas — was by no means diminished. And though an outdoor Memorial Day concert in North Hampton had to be cancelled, the annual parade in that town took place as planned, as did a similar procession which marched through downtown Hampton to the High Street Cemetery.

The day started off under gray skies at NH Marine Memorial Statue at Hampton Beach, with American Legion and MJROTC color guards. In a scene that would be repeated throughout the day at stops in Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton, the moderately-sized crowds were welcomed by American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello. Speaking over a new PA system, USMC Veteran introduced the first speaker, Pastor Garrett Lear.

In his invocation, Pastor Lear read Scripture from 2 Timothy 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Noting that the day's proceedings were being observed "not just to mourn but to thank [those] who lived and died," Lear stated that "we're a better people today because of those who were willing to serve."

The National Anthem was presented in all four towns, in an a capella performance at the beach by Winnacunnet High School students Kim Rushforth and Teresa McNamara, and by the WHS Warrior Band at Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton. "God Bless America" was also part of three of the programs, again presented by students from their respective towns' schools, including Marissa Henry from Lincoln Akerman School, chorus students from North Hampton School, and a quartet of singers (Gabby Fatello, Sajin Murphy, Brynn Potter and Samantha Conway) from Hampton Academy Junior High School.

A powerful Memorial Day message, "Payback," was delivered at each stop by Lt. Col. Phillip Bean, USMC. Cutting an impressive figure in full military dress, Lt. Col. Bean began his comments by saying, "It is fitting and proper that we honor those that have sacrificed life for freedom, for defense and support of the Constitution of the United States, for our security, for our safety, for our liberty, for our dreams, for the dreams and aspirations of the entire world." He called US servicepeople who did not return from battle "our modern day centurions, our Spartan warriors, our mortal saviors here on earth."
[Atlantic News photo by McGee]

A steady rain was falling by 11:15 a.m., but it did not prevent Hampton's Memorial Day parade from taking place at that time. Spectators watched from the shelter of their vehicles parked alongside the parade route, then joined the procession for the ceremony in the High Street Cemetery.

Town officials, representatives from the town's fire and police departments, Boy Scout Troop 177, the New Hampshire Firefighters pipe and drum corps, local Veterans, mounted police, marchers from Faith Community Church, American Legion Post #35 members, and scores of spectators were welcomed by Fatello. Under rain-drenched skies, the Legion commander told those assembled that having everyone in attendance — when they'd likely be much warmer and drier at home — "means more to us than you'll ever know."

Lt. Col. Bean's "Payback" speech continued to deliver its important message in its final presentation of the day. "Those we honor today have vanquished every enemy of freedom and liberty in this nation's existence," Bean said. "We are the stewards of their sacrifice and the ambassadors of their mighty legacy." The speech concluded with a passage from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which reads "that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

Pastor Lear delivered the benediction as each ceremony drew to its close. Echoed versions of "Taps" were played at the ceremonies, following the laying of memorial wreaths and the firing of military gun salutes. Thus, under rainy skies and the relative shelter of big, colorful umbrellas — and a collective banner of heartfelt patriotism — Seacoast area residents came to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of this country.