Reminder Assistant Editor
HAMPDEN Memorial Day has been an important day for United States citizens since the Civil War, when the holiday, then known as Decoration Day, honored Union soldiers lost in battle. After World War I, the day was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.
In Hampden, however, those who served this nation as far back as the American Revolution are honored yearly by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) with the flagging of veterans' graves and a dignified parade.
"Memorial Day is probably one of the most solemn holidays of the year," VFW member Art Booth said. "We are honoring war heroes who died for our country, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It's not a day for the beach it's a day of honor."
Booth is in charge of placing an American flag at the grave of each soldier buried in one of Hampden's two cemeteries Prospect Hill Cemetery on Scantic Road and Old Cemetery on Chapin Road. This year, more than 400 flags will be placed on May 17.
In addition to this solemn recognition, a parade will take place in town on May 26, starting at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Church, continuing up to the War Memorial across from Town Hall.
"The trappings of the parade are non-political," Booth stated. "The solemnity of the parade is key. It's a hallowed day honoring the over one million who died, going all the way back to 1775.
"It's not a big parade, but it's a nice parade," he continued. "It's very Hampden."
On that day of remembrance, there will be a fly over from a squad from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield and, following the parade, the town's fire department will be hosting a Hot Dog Social. Booth said the police department will be hosting an ice cream social at the same time.
Memorial Day was given its official name by Federal law in 1967, although it has been celebrated in some way since 1865.