SALEM — Blue, red and camouflage uniforms filled City Hall yesterday for a special ceremony to mark Salem’s federal designation as the birthplace of the National Guard.
Although widely accepted locally, Salem’s designation as the birthplace of the Guard became official only when President Barack Obama signed a bill into law last week.
“We’ve known for a long time this is where things originated,” said Congressman John Tierney, who brought a framed copy of the bill to yesterday’s ceremony. “... It’s an honor to see this come to fruition.”
According to history, the nation’s first militia, which was the foundation for what would become the National Guard, first gathered on Salem Common in 1637. The National Guard holds a muster on the common each April to celebrate its connection to the city.
“It’s one thing to proclaim ourselves as the birthplace of the National Guard. It’s another thing to have federal designation,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, standing against a backdrop of flags in the City Council chambers. “... This really recognizes our community coming together, for the common good.”
Yesterday was an especially proud day for Mary O’Leary, widow of the late City Councilor Lenny O’Leary.
Her husband first got the ball rolling to designate Salem as the National Guard birthplace in 2007. O’Leary’s City Council resolution to designate Salem as the birthplace was one of the last things he championed before he passed away.
“(Lenny) would be thrilled, if he could be here,” Mary O’Leary said. “... (This is) a great tribute to the National Guard, a great tribute to Lenny.”
City officials, veterans, politicians and National Guardsmen gathered at City Hall yesterday for the ceremony. Councilors Joseph O’Keefe, Jerry Ryan, Bill Legault and Michael Sosnowski attended, along with Driscoll, Tierney, state Sen. Joan Lovely and state Rep. John Keenan.