Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day isn’t about Veterans, servicemen and women, parades, flyovers, sales or backyard barbecues. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of any of those groups/things. Those are all good, except for sales, I won’t be shopping today. Memorial Day is for the men and women who died while serving their country. My country.
For over 30 years, I’ve driven by the building shown here and thought about taking a tour. The building has served this town in a number of ways. It has been home to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. It served as the initial office of the Military Airport that became Bradley Field and later, Bradley International Airport. Bradley, by the way was Second Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley, who died during a training accident in August 1941.
It’s a sad way to obtain recognition.
Other things in this small town are named for soldiers who paid the ultimate price.
The Smalley Brothers Post of the VFW is named after Cpl. Francis E. Smalley and Pvt. Edward F. Smalley, brothers who died at Normandy about 10 days apart during WWII. We look back on the Normandy invasion, D-Day, as a major turning point in WWII. At the time of their deaths, I’m not sure the Smalley brothers had anything approaching a clear view of the end of that battle, let alone the end of the war.
The road that Maddie and I walk down almost every Saturday is Chapman Way, named after TSgt John Chapman, the first service person from this town to die in Afghanistan. He died in March 2002. I remember when they put that sign up.
Memorial Hall, like so many Memorial Halls in the northeast, was built after the Civil War. According to the Connecticut Historical Society:
MEMORIAL HALL, Windsor Locks, is significant historically because it was built to be quarters for the J.H. Converse Post, No. 67, Grand Army of the Republic, and has served over the years as a center for memorial activities for those who served in all wars.
J.H. Converse Post was organized in 1884. It was named after Major Joseph H. Converse, who was killed in action at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 4, 1864.
The building has a curious history that includes a variety of service roles, a legal fight to prevent it from becoming Windsor Locks Town Hall, and a devastating fire that gutted the interior of the granite building in June 1974. The interior was rebuilt, and the building continues to serve Veterans organizations in town. These organizations sponsor many activities to preserve the history and educate our residents of the significant people that served our country, from this little town.
If you’re in the US, I hope you are enjoying the first major long holiday weekend of 2016, but I hope you will take a moment to remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price to preserve the freedom we enjoy.