Last Saturday, April 2nd, Jamie and I took a semi-last-minute trip to Salem, Massachusetts in order to witness the commemoration of the 374th anniversary of the “First Muster”. For those of you wondering exactly what the “First Muster” is allow me to explain!
When early American colonists set up their defense system, they adopted the English militia system which obligated all males between the ages of 16 and 60 to possess arms and participate in the defense of the community. The militia drilled once a week and provided guard details each evening as there was a growing threat to the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Pequot Indians who were a pretty ruthless tribe and they needed to be in a high state of readiness just in case the call to arms was sounded.
On December 13th, 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the colony’s militia companies into three regiments: the North, South, and East Regiments. By organizing the militia into smaller groups it increased the efficiency and responsiveness of the militia and gave the colonists better protection. The first muster of the East Regiment took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1637 and, though the exact date is unknown, it was the first time a regiment of militia drilled for the common defense of a multi-community area and laid the foundation for what would become the Army National Guard.
The "First Muster" is commemorated each year in early April by historical groups and military re-enactors as well as the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard who, for 374 years, has continued the East Regiment’s proud heritage of service as the National Guard continues its historic mission of providing the first-line of defense for our nation.
Alrighty then … we’ve got history … we’ve got patriotism … we’ve got men in uniform … and we’ve even got a band … what more could a gal with a camera want? It should come as no surprise that I am a self-professed sucker for military gatherings, something which I probably come by naturally being that I was raised as an Air Force brat and then joined the Air Force myself right out of high school. (I guess I should probably also mention that I was a Navy wife for awhile, too, but I really don’t remember too much from that time in my life.) Let’s also not forget that Jamie graduated from a military school in June that was part of the Florida National Guard and this just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up so I loaded the car up with the kid and the camera and off we went in search of history and maybe even a little eye-candy in uniform!
The 2nd Corps Cadets Veterans Association of Salem hosts the event which began at 10:00 a.m. when they gathered for a ceremony in front of St. Peter’s Church where they laid a wreath, played taps, and fired a 21-gun salute at the grave of Captain Stephen Abbott, founder and first commander of the 2nd Corps of Cadets of the East Regiment. The lineage of the 2nd Corps is now proudly carried by Battery A, 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Jamie and I missed this part of the celebration as we were running just a bit late but had plenty of time to witness the next part of the day’s events which was a memorial service at Armory Park in front of the old armory (now the Salem Visitor Center).
At that service, the assembled military re-enactors, members of the 101st Engineer Battalion, and others who had gathered to mark the occasion listened to remarks by Lt. Cmdr. Larry Conway of the 2nd Corps as well as from Mr. Jay Finney, Chief Marketing Officer of the Peabody Essex Museum, and Army Lt. Col. Richard M. Bertone, Commander, 101st Engineer Battalion. Another wreath was laid, "Taps" was played by a member of the Air National Guard Band of the Northeast, and another 21-gun salute was given to honor the soldiers that were killed in the battles of Lexington and Concord.
From there, the soldiers and assembled groups marched down Essex Street to Salem Common where the Massachusetts Army National Guard units assembled with the historical military groups for a ceremonial inspection that was performed by Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, along with Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll and U.S. Representative John Tierney of the Sixth Congressional District of Massachusetts who proposed a bill designating his home city of Salem as the birthplace of the National Guard just prior to leaving Washington to attend the muster.
The 101st Field Artillery Salute Battery fired a 13-gun salute to honor past and present troops using Howitzer cannons that not only shook the field but activated several car alarms in the area and near the end of the ceremony an F-16 performed a very quick fly-over that was darned hard to get a picture of because I was on the wrong side of the Common to get a good shot - not to mention they fly really, really fast!
The ceremonies ended with a Pass in Review where the assembled units marched across the Common and past the reviewing area with the Commander and other assembled guests.
All in all, I'm quite happy that I made the drive from Connecticut up to Salem to witness the commemoration and ceremonies and will most definitely try to get back next year for the 375th Anniversary. I think it's great that Salem honors the men and women who serve as citizen/soldiers in the Guard and Reserves - especially this year considering that members of the 101st Field Artillery Regiment and the 101st Engineer Battalion just returned in December from a deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq where they lost one of their own on April 19th, 2010 when Sergeant Robert J. Barrett from Fall River, Massachusetts was killed in an IED attack while on dismounted patrol just south of Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. Sgt. Barrett was only 20 years old and left behind a 2-year old daughter.
When you stop and think about what risks the men and women of the National Guard take and the fact that they put their lives on hold and on the line for the rest of us, it really makes a lot of sense to commemorate, celebrate, and thank them as often as possible. Don't you agree?
The above video is one that I put together with pictures from the muster - there are also additional pictures from the muster on my Flickr account if you're interested in seeing more of the day's events.
In conclusion, a big THANK YOU to all of the men and women of our military no matter if you are Active, Reserve, or Guard. I really can't say it enough.