By Charlene Lovett
While Memorial Day may look different this year due to the pandemic, its significance remains the same. In fact, this year marks the anniversary of many historical events that impacted lives at home and abroad. From the birth of our nation to the present, the people of Claremont have served their country in every war. Our cemeteries and memorials remind us of the sacrifice that so many made and provide a pathway for remembrance.
This April marked the 245th anniversary of the Lexington and Concord battles in Massachusetts. These events of 1775 between the colonists’ militia and the British soldiers marked the start of the American Revolution. Incorporated in 1764, Claremont was still in its infancy. Yet, some of its men readily joined the fight against a world power to bring forth a new nation. While no monument exists in the city memorializing their sacrifice, our cemeteries are the final resting place for those who risked everything to make America a reality.
The Civil War ended 155 years ago in 1865, the bloodiest war in this country’s history. For four years, Americans fought one another. Battles ravaged the countryside, destroying lives and property. Though the cities and towns of New Hampshire were not the battleground, their men were deployed to the fight. The cost of keeping the country unified was great with an estimated loss of life ranging from 600,000 to 800,000. Nearly 100 Claremont men were among the dead. Their names are recorded on the bronze memorial, erected by Claremont’s citizens in 1869. The memorial, adorned with a bronze statue of a Civil War soldier, stands in the center of Broad Street Park.
World War II ended 75 years ago in 1945. More than 16 million men and women served in the U.S. armed forces during that war. Given the U.S. population at that time was approximately 132 million, 12% of Americans served. The impact of that war was felt by every family to some degree. Here at home, the families of 46 men mourned the loss of loved ones. Twenty-two years later in 1967, the citizens of Claremont erected a war memorial in Broad Street Park listing their names and those who died in World War I, Korea and Vietnam.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. In my column last week, I wrote of PFC Ronald W. McKenzie who was the first man from Claremont to die in that war. Five other men from our community also lost their lives. The names of these six men are listed on the war memorial.
Fifty-five years ago, our country entered the Vietnam Conflict. For the first time, Americans were able to watch on television the devastation that was occurring so far away. Ending 10 years later in 1975, the conflict claimed the lives of over 58,000 American service men and women. Here at home, the names of five men who lost their lives due to the fighting overseas are listed on the war memorial.
In 1990, the U.S. entered the Gulf War triggered by Iraq’s attempted occupation of Kuwait. It was to be the first of several campaigns in the Middle East in which thousands of American service men and women give their lives over the next 30 years. Today, we still have tens of thousands of troops in harm’s way throughout the Middle East.
This Memorial Day there will be no parade or ceremony in Broad Street Park to honor the sacrifice made by so many throughout our history due to COVID-19. Yet, our gravestones and memorials stand as sentinels of remembrance, offering us a view into the blood and tears shed on our behalf. All we must do is pause and look their way.
Charlene Lovett is the mayor of Claremont and a 22-year Army veteran. She welcomes your feedback. Please email questions, comments or concerns to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.