By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — It’s official: Salem is the birthplace of the National Guard.
Although widely accepted locally, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law this week designating Salem as the birthplace of the nation’s National Guard.
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.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll called the designation “a moment of pride” for the city.
“To have official federal recognition is just another feather in the cap for our city,” Driscoll said yesterday. “Salem has such an outstanding history. This is one part of it, and a part that may not be well-known.”
“It’s pride for the city, that our forefathers came together and helped form this branch of the military,” Driscoll said. “It’s special ... It’s something we’ll continue to tout.”
The federal designation will be marked with a ceremony Thursday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m. at Salem City Hall, 93 Washington St. Driscoll, Congressman John Tierney and representatives from the National Guard are expected to attend.
The National Guard holds an annual muster on the Salem Common to celebrate its connection to the city. Last April, hundreds of troops gathered on the common for a celebration of the Guard’s 375th anniversary.
A 2007 City Council resolution naming Salem as the National Guard birthplace was sponsored by the late Ward 4 Councilor Lenny O’Leary, said Tom Moran, past commander of the Second Corps of Cadets Veterans Association, the curators of the annual muster on Salem Common.
“I’m so pleased at this honor,” Moran said yesterday. “... that was the last act Lenny did before he passed away.”
After the local resolution was passed, state Rep. John Keenan sponsored a state-level bill declaring the same, which Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law in August 2010.
Congressman John Tierney then took the issue to Capitol Hill, to gain federal recognition. Obama signed the bill Thursday.
“It has been a privilege to work with state and local leaders on this important legislation, which pays tribute to those who first defended our country and honors those men and women who continue to serve in our National Guard today,” Tierney said in a press release. “Our country’s earliest military regiment first met, organized and conducted drills in Salem to prepare for defending the local community. I look forward to marking this new law and thanking our National Guard on Thursday.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB. Reporter Tom Dalton contributed to this article.