EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 17, 2010

My Haverhill: Time to remember the city's patriotic fighters

My Haverhill
Barney Gallagher

This Patriots Day holiday weekend should be a good time to salute the citizen warrior and residents for whom the day was named.

It's a good time to salute the people of Haverhill who answered calls for fights to gain or preserve freedom, and even civilization as we know it today.

The first time we responded as a unit was the Revolution, which started in 1775.

The biggest group to go from here was in 1941, when the National Guard unit, Company A, 182nd Infantry was called into federal duty for World War II.

The Revolution troops were organized, but not necessarily trained properly.

On the other hand, the 1941 troops had some decent training as a cohesive combat unit.

In 1775, the militia had a long, hot march from here and they did not see combat that day, but still they went.

In contrast, the World War II guys were in training before we were actually at war and they were ready.

The Colonial troops were not as well trained, but they went. Even if they did not get into that fight as a unit, they went in the name of freedom.

Today, National Guard units are being sent to war for a year at a time.

In World War II, they went for "the duration," whatever it might be. Some of them were away for four years.

So we observe the holiday with a marathon and baseball game, both now American traditions.

The Armory building in Haverhill from which Company A departed is now a firefighting museum.

There are memorials around the city to various wars, but the least noticeable is from the biggest, World War II.

In a way, your observance of the holiday depends on your personal view of patriotism. There are those feel we never should have separated from England.

The best thing is that we are all entitled to our own ideas and opinions.

The people who put on the "tea parties" are crude and rude, but you can't blame them for wanting to make themselves heard. That is, after all, one of the realities and opinions that grew from all that fighting.

Patriotism obviously means different things to different people. It doesn't mean denouncing people because their opinions are not the same as yours or mine.

Haverhill is a patriotic city. Every conflict since the French and Indian War has seen the city respond to calls for duty and service and has honored its patriots.

The least, and probably the most, we can do on this holiday is think about what it really means to each of us.

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Barney Gallagher has covered Haverhill since 1936 as a reporter, editor and columnist.