Honoring military service both now and a century ago

The Memorial Tablet inside the main entrance of Pelham Memorial High School. (Madison Cohen)

The first real high school in the Town of Pelham was designated Pelham Memorial High School in honor of those who served and died in World War I. The American flag has been proudly flown above it ever since.

The school opened in the fall of 1921, and the dedication ceremony, held on May 6, 1922, was full of pomp and pride. A Memorial Tablet was affixed to the wall in the entrance hall and listed the names of the 222 Pelhamites who served—including nine who had a star next to their names showing that they had died in the service of their country.

During the First and Second World Wars, the percentage of families who had a member in the military was more than 70%. Today, that number has dropped to less than 2%.

But that doesn’t mean that we have forgotten those who serve. The Memorial Day parades have always filled the streets of Pelham with cheering, admiring crowds. The largest cheers were given to the women and men serving today and for the veterans proudly leading the parade.

The Marines and sailors who came and marched in Pelham with us were treated with kindness and respect. Residents of all ages, from young Scouts to organizations like the Manor Club and the Pelham Civics, treated them like they were family members.

Every year, the graduating class of PMHS lists those young men and women who join the service academies and all branches of the military. We respect them, as we did their mothers and fathers and their grand and great grandparents.

We respect their service, and we mourn the loss of those who, like the nine young men who died in World War I, gave their lives for the freedom they fought to preserve and the belief that their actions would make a significant difference for future generations.

Joe Durnin is past commander of Pelham Post 50 and former mayor of the Village of Pelham.