By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Local officials, politicians, veterans and National Guardsmen gathered at City Hall this morning to celebrate the city's federal designation as the birthplace of the nation's National Guard.
Although widely accepted locally, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law last week designating Salem as the birthplace of the 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.
"It's not just that the National Guard originated here in Salem, it's the work they continue to do," said Congressman John Tierney, standing against a backdrop of flags in the City Council chambers.
"What a lineage we have, what an honor to be here," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott "Catfish" Rice, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard. "What a great meeting of all the history in the place."
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.
This year's muster is planned for April 6. Not much will change about the muster, a longtime tradition, with this month's federal designation, Rice said.
However, participants will "stand a little straighter, a little taller" this year, he said, smiling.
For full coverage, see Friday's Salem News.