Local and state officials, as well as generations of the National Guard, gathered in Salem’s historic City Hall this morning at a ceremony officially recognizing the town as the birthplace of the National Guard.
The House of Representatives passed a bill spearheaded by Congressman John Tierney, among other local leaders, designating Salem as the Guard’s birthplace last year and President Obama signed the bill into law last week.
“It’s always important to recognize our heritage and our history,'' Tierney said. "Communities really are defined by their history in many, many ways.”
“There’s a lot of Salem’s history that gets mentioned over, and over, and over again, but this is a part of it that may not have gotten the attention it should’ve had and hopefully this is going to bring it to the floor.”
The birth of the National Guard in Salem is something that is known by locals, Mayor Kim Driscoll told the group but it’s important to the community to have it established on paper.
“For us we do have an annual muster where we recognize the roots of the National Guard,” Driscoll said. “I think it will be more special now that we’re officially designated. Folks who participated in the First Muster were ordinary citizens who knew the importance of drilling and working together to protect the community and keep themselves safe and we still have that spirit in our community today.”
The history of the National Guard began in 1637 with that First Muster, a militia gathering on Salem Common where all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 engaged in a weekly training to prepare to work as a military organization.
This April will mark the 376th anniversary of the First Muster with a variety of special presentations by the Salem Veterans Council and other National Guard divisions. But this year will be a little different, said Maj. Gen. L. Scott “Catfish” Rice.
“We’ll stand a little bit straighter, a little bit prouder and a little bit honored to be part of, an integral part, of this community,” Rice said. “It’s excellent. It’s very special.”