Saturday, September 10, 2016

"What Does it Matter?"

     In a few weeks; three to be exact, from tomorrow,Sunday, some of us will gather at the ancient East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery in Portland's East Deering neighborhood to dedicate a memorial marker in memory of a man who was born 242 years ago.  This man, William Blake, served in the militia during the War of 1812, a war that still confounds and confuses us today.  

     Why take the  time to commemorate one who never saw 'real' combat?  Most of his fellow patriots whose stones grace the Grand Trunk Cemetery Veterans Memorial,  never did either. Only those who served during the Revolutionary War and one who was a Civil War soldier were engaged in actual battle and danger. The stones that memorialize  the Veterans of the War of 1812,  honor men who were all volunteers,  called into service to defend the Port of Portland, without benefit of support from Massachusetts or the Federal Government.  The district of Maine, still part of Massachusetts,  was left to fend for itself.

     In the light of all that's happening in our nation and state today; a most contentious Presidential election, major political and cultural animosities, real concerns over the economy and safety here and abroad, at a time when tensions are high and civility in discourse is lacking, why bother to plan a ceremony, or take an hour from all these concerns to attend one?  

     I  can't answer these questions for you, dear reader; nor would I ever attempt too.   For myself, the ceremony planned for October 2nd is a means of weaving together threads in the tapestry that depicts the history of Portland, and particularly the Back Cove/East Deering Community.  It is a continuation of the project begun by two former Girl Scouts in 2010: "Unearthing the Roots of the Back Cove and East Deering Communities."

     William Blake was just an ordinary man, not one of Portland's greats. He made no outstanding contributions to history, the arts or commerce that I am aware of.  He was in all probability, a farmer and a citizen - soldier, a volunteer from Westbrook.  At that time, the area known today as East Deering was part of Westbrook, not the city of Portland.  

     The militia is the historical foundation for  what we know today as the Maine National Guard.  Since 911, the Maine National Guard has served in the hotbeds of conflicts in the Middle East,  and has supported the United States regular army.  They have, and continue to serve with honor and distinction at home and abroad.

     I found this historical piece on their webpage:

     On October 2nd, The VFW Deering Memorial Post will provide an Honor Guard, a patriotic song will be sung, a few words shared, the stone unveiled and a wreath lain, to honor an ordinary citizen - soldier and a patriot and pioneer from Portland.  My hope is that those of you who are willing and able, will join us at the Grand Trunk Cemetery.

     This year, we are inviting participants who wish, to bring along a bag of daffodil bulbs in memory of William Blake or any of the other Veterans interred at the Grand Trunk Cemetery. Each fall and spring, Portland Girl Scouts, Friends of the Grand Trunk Cemetery and neighbors give an hour or two of service to plant and cleanup the site.  This year's Daffodil Planting Party is on Sunday, October 16.  

     I have already received a donation from my dear friend, Sharon Lee Quincannon to purchase bulbs.  Each year since 2011, when we instituted the 'Adopt A Veteran' project to pay the fee for procuring the military records for our Veterans, Sharon has given a donation in memory of Lieut. Crispus Graves.  I am most grateful.

       Here are some of the notes for media outlets, should they decided that this little ceremony is worthy of coverage.  Jessica Grondin, from the City of Portland has been always helpful and encouraging over the last several years.

The wreath which will be placed on October 2nd in memory of  William Blake.