Merrimack vets saluted at Veterans Day ceremony at Last Rest Cemetery

Merrimack’s Veterans Day commemoration was held on Monday, Nov. 11, at Last Rest Cemetery, located on Baboosic Lake Road, across from Merrimack Town Hall.

One hundred or more veterans, family members, friends and others wishing to commemorate the sacrifices of America’s military were in attendance.

The commemoration began when an color guard and an honor guard comprised of uniformed veterans and police representatives entered the cemetery. They were followed by a contingent of Boy Scouts from Merrimack troops 424 and 401. Also adding a touch of formality was a group of motorcyclists, the American Legion Riders, based at American Legion Post 98, 43 Baboosic Lake Road.

The riders, smartly dressed in black leather vests and white shirts, stood straight with hands over hearts as the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. In attendance from the group were Scott Kurzweil, Steve Felton, Ray Patnaude, Michael Hoyle, Tony Coelho, Vernel Arnum, Steve Lyons, Douglas Ruffell and Bill Norling.

The cemetery was sunlit that day. The brightness illuminated an array of mementos placed on various graves in honor of those interred. Toys, stuffed animals, plastic-wrapped photos and votive candles in red glass cylinders marked some burial sites of the town’s veterans. American flags fluttered alongside dozens of the headstones. The graves of those who served their country also were marked with bronze medallions noting the presence of a veteran.

Max Quayle, commander of VFW Post 8641, and Sal Scali, commander of American Legion Post 98, welcomed the crowd. Quayle deemed all veterans a “family” committed to freedom and to remembering the sacrifices of those who have passed and of those who currently are enlisted in the service of their country, no matter what their post or position.

“We’re one big family,” Quayle said. “That will never change.”

Speaker “Skitch” Henderson, of American Legion Post 98, along with Robert Therrian, of the VFW, saluted the men and women of America’s military and asked for all in attendance to recognize not only the service of those who faced combat but the service of those who supported the troops in administrative capacities or otherwise behind the scenes.

Henderson later said it took a minimum of seven people in non-combat jobs to keep one combat person on the line. He said he recognizes that some veterans tend to think of their contributions as minimal unless they were actually on the front line during wartime.

“Whether behind the desk or behind an M-15 or a tank, think of them,” Henderson said. “Remember them.”

The ceremony concluded and participants lingered to peruse some of the inscriptions on the headstones of those interred at Last Rest Cemetery, a privately-owned property of some 15 acres that was commissioned in the early 1800s. It is the place of rest for some Merrimack residents who during their lives performed honorable feats for their country.

There interred is Walter Kittredge, born in the Reeds Ferry neighborhood. He was a composer of more than 500 songs and ballads, many of which focused on the American Civil War. There, too, is buried James S. Thornton, an officer in the Navy during the Civil War. He was the great-grandson of Matthew Thornton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In repose at Last Rest is Nathaniel C. Barker, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who served during the Civil War. They are joined by veterans from many wars, vintage and modern.