PORTSMOUTH — The triangular Legion Memorial Park isn’t the biggest public green around these parts; it measures just 120 by 30 feet and is bisected by a section of Hedly Street at East Main Road.
Although modest is size, this little plot of land has become sacred ground for those honoring our local war veterans. On Friday, the Portsmouth Garden Club held its second annual wreath-laying ceremony there to kick off Memorial Day weekend.
Club members placed a wreath, designed by Carlone’s Florist, at the foot of the World War I monument in front of Town Hall as a small crowd gathered in a semi-circle.
“We ask that you remember the many sacrifices our Armed Forces make for us to preserve our freedom and please take the time to read the names of our residents listed on the monuments,” said Carolyn Evans-Carbery of the Garden Club. “They gave their lives to protect us.”
Pastor Michael Pike from Portsmouth United Methodist Church gave the benediction and also recited a “prayer for peace.”
“We remember today all those who have come before us and given the greatest gift to our democratic nation — their lives. Their duty, their honor and their live are precious gifts that must be given to the future of our country and our families,” he said. “Freedom and democracy are the result of all of the most honorable this country has produced. Today we stand to remember the most honorable amongst us and we much continue to carry the burden of their sacrifice, lest we lose sight of what true freedom is.”
The pastor also read the Portsmouth Compact, the document that established the town’s founding in 1638, which contains Bible references he said demonstrated the faith of the town’s founding fathers.
Ms. Evans-Carbery noted that the Garden Club is celebrating its 80th year. The club received permission from the Town Council in 1948 to make improvements at Legion Park, once maintained by the American Legion. The club planted 600 tulips that fall — attracting many photographers the following spring — and decorated the park in December with lights and greens.
“We hope to continue the tradition of providing a fitting memorial,” she said.
Council President James Seveney, who attended the ceremonies along with council member David Gleason, thanked the Garden Club for all it does in sprucing up parts of town — often in the name of veterans.
“What the Garden Club does to commemorate the sacrifice of men and women who served is a wonderful thing,” said Mr. Seveney.
He also thanked Ms. Evans-Carbery and others for their work in getting a Blue Star Memorial marker established outside the Portsmouth Free Public Library in August 2013. These markers, which pay tribute to U.S. Armed Forces, were established by The National Council of State Garden Clubs after World War II. The marker at the library was the first ever established in Rhode Island.
“As a veteran, it certainly warmed my heart,” said Mr. Seveney.
To conclude the program, bugler Richard Ashmore played “Taps.”
Starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 26, Alvaro E. Vieira VFW Post 5390, 822 Anthony Road, will present its own annual Memorial Day ceremony. Everyone is welcome to attend.