ROCKLAND – Taps, the ceremonial melody that has trumpeted to familiarity for many Americans, was born of the Civil War, written on the banks of the James River by Union General Daniel Butterfield.
Monday, May 31, 2021 – 152 years after the first Decoration Day and 50 years after the first currently-recognized national ceremonies – Rockland’s Civil War historian and current Post Commander, Dave Sulin, intertwined some Civil War trivia into the day’s somber remembrance while standing in the rainy drizzle in the shadow of Rockland’s Civil War monument at Chapman Park.
Beginning in 1868 and ‘69, Decoration Day enlisted mourners to place ornamentation on the stone markers of the uniformed deceased. 1971 saw the replacement of the Monday, May 30 annual decoration focus with Memorial Day we now know.
And just as yesteryear decorations honored the sacrifice of those soldiers’ graves, thousands of American flags highlight Rockland graves today, recently placed by Oceanside High School baseball and softball teams.
“The coaches and staff, and the young ladies and gentlemen…who gave up their Saturday morning – a rainy Saturday morning -- to help….We really appreciated that,” said Sulin, on behalf of Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt Post 1 of the American Legion.
By being Post 1, according to Sulin, Rockland’s Legion branch is identified as the oldest Legion in Maine, and equal to the oldest in the country.
Directly across the intersection from Chapman Park’s soldier and sailor monument is Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt Park, named in honor of the first Rockland citizens killed in World War I, and the first Rockland citizen killed in World War II.
“[Memorial Day] is not a day for tears, even though I still do,” said former Post Commander Shawn Driscoll.
A few others in the crowd also teared up as the distinct harmony of The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, Taps, and other favorites was performed by the Bay Winds North Music Ensemble; some of their memories freshly spawned, while other memories traveled the years and the decades.
“We still find ourselves today humbled by the sacrifices of those brave soldiers of the Civil War, and by the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of succeeding generations of young men and women who, even today, give up their lives for their country,” said Sulin. “No words can express how dearly we hold the memories of these brave Americans.
“In 2021, you have freely gathered here to honor all of Rockland’s, and this country’s, best and bravest, who gave up their most precious possession – their lives – for their country. There is neither a greater sacrifice to be made, nor a nobler gift that can be given.”
Burpee Carpenter Hutchinson Funeral Home donated the use of their podium and sound system and their always-unwavering support of the American Legion, according to Sulin.
Also in attendance for the ceremony were: Past Post Commander Destiny Poole, Rockland Poet Laureate Carol Bachofner, and Post 1 Chaplain Sharon Heine.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org