The native Abenaki people named our narrow peninsula “Naskeag,” meaning “the end,” a term that has more than one connotation for us today.
We want to think about and honor American veterans, past and present. We drive down the peninsula on Naskeag Road, which ends at Naskeag Harbor.
The Harbor is where a Revolutionary War skirmish took place in 1778 and was later memorialized as The Battle of Naskeag; it will be our second stop.
We stop first about a mile before the Harbor at a picturesque place that has meant an ending for area residents for many years: historic Naskeag Cemetery, which is the smaller of the Town’s two public cemeteries. We walk under the old wooden arch, between two flowering crabapple trees in peak bloom.
Birds are singing as we enter the white-picket-fenced grounds, but no one else is there. We see among the many stones 21 sites that are adorned by staked American flags waiving in the breeze, calling attention to the veterans buried below them.
The most prominent of these is the Reed burial area, the only one enclosed in a pen. It contains the gravestone of William Reed, a Captain who served in the Revolutionary War. He died and was buried here in 1790, three years after the Constitution of the United States was signed.
We're drawn to a burial area that's far from prominent. In fact, it's almost hidden and would be hard to notice if there were no flag flying there. It's in perhaps the most beautiful part of the Cemetery, under a flowering crabapple tree that's scattering its blossoms onto the flat marker sunk into the grass.
Here lies Virgil N. Gray who was a private in World War I. He died at the age of 70 and was buried here in 1961.
We guess that Virgil would like his spot.
Elsewhere, the grave stones indicate that there are other veterans here of World Wars I and II and the Korea action. No veteran of the American Civil War was indicated, which is a bit surprising, given Maine’s significant contribution to that most deadly war for Americans.
Going from stone to stone, we try to conjure the spirits of these dead veterans, but we can’t. However, there may be a clue here. They or their loved ones ordered that their military service be inscribed permanently over their final resting places.
That’s pride in service; a conviction that they did something important in the military, which is a complicated way of saying that they felt patriotic. In today’s era, which is rife with expressions of false patriotism and cynicism for the real thing, that’s a refreshing thought.
As we leave Naskeag Cemetery, the crabapple blossom petals are spiraling down and apricot-pink blooms are peaking on a big flowering quince near Captain Reed’s marker. The birds never stopped singing while we were there.