Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day -- A Time to Say "Thank You"

Drop Cap Letter: It was a honor to march in today’s Memorial Day parade as first selectman and to make some remarks afterward on Veterans Green. For the record, here’s what I had to say:

Honored guests,

What a wonderful Memorial Day parade. Thank you to Bill Vornkahl for his efforts on this parade, Veterans Day, and just about every event in Westport that involves marching.

I have walked this parade every year for the past 15 years, wearing either a firefighter’s uniform as a member of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department or as a member of the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. I am delighted to march this year as still a member of both units but also this time as your first selectman.

I first marched in a Westport Memorial Day parade about 50 years ago as a Cub Scout or a Little League member. I am not sure now which. While the details of those years have started to fade, I still remember well though the small town feeling, the spirit of patriotism,and the outpouring then to our veterans, especially those who fought in Korea, World War II and World War I.

But those who have studied Memorial Day and its history know that it began as Decoration Day to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War.

Many of the states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day due to the lingering hostility towards the Union Army. Many Southern states did not recognize Memorial Day until after World War I.

Westport’s observance of Decoration Day began in the late 1870s with Civil War veterans visiting cemeteries to decorate the graves of war dead.

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