Exploring The Last Green Valley: Trio of maples represent three of our veterans


Exploring The Last Green Valley: Trio of maples represent three of our veterans

Exploring The Last Green Valley: Trio of maples represent three of our veterans

Friday is Veterans Day, our public holiday to honor U.S. veterans and victims of all wars.

It was originally called Armistice Day and marked the end of hostilities in World War I that occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Veterans Day is always Nov. 11, no matter what day of the week it falls.

This past month, I was honored to speak at the Veterans’ Coffeehouse in Danielson.

The room was filled with men and women eager to share their stories with each other. I provided them with information about The Last Green Valley — the place they left when their country called and the home they longed for during their years of service.

The Last Green Valley was and is home to many veterans. From the Revolutionary War through today, the call to serve has been very strong within the 35 towns of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.

During the Revolutionary War, many Connecticut and Massachusetts men took up arms against the British. Some joined Washington’s forces in Boston and fought at the Battle of Breeds “Bunker” Hill.

Our region’s notable Israel Putnam was one such combatant and is credited with rallying the troops with the cry, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” in order to save precious powder and shot.

Nathan Hale, from Coventry, was a member of the Continental 7th Connecticut Regiment and was promoted to captain, commanding a small unit of Knowlton’s Rangers charged with reconnaissance behind enemy lines.

He was captured by the British and executed as a spy without benefit of a trial. His famous words “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” inspired many. He was named State Hero of Connecticut in 1985.

Thomas Taylor was a veteran of the Civil War. He lived to the age of 84 and is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in Putnam. He was the last living veteran of the naval battle of Hampton Roads, also known as the battle of the “ironclads” between the Merrimac and the Monitor. He served on the U.S.S. Monitor at the tender age of only 14.

Like countless families throughout the country, my family tree includes several veterans that were called to serve. One of my ancestors on my mother’s side fought and survived the battle of Bunker Hill. My great, great grandfather fought in the Civil War. We still have his enlistment and discharge papers.

At the start of World War II, my grandparents planted three sugar maple trees on their property in New Hampshire. Dug into the soil near the house, each tree was planted in honor of their three sons who had enlisted.

George, David and Alan would soon be oversees and my grandparents considered the three trees symbolic of their love and honor for the boys.

My Uncle George joined the Army and fought in North Africa and Europe. My dad David and my Uncle Alan joined the Navy.

Dad was a Navy doctor and went ashore with the first wave of Army Engineers on Utah Beach at Normandy. Alan was also at Normandy and went on to participate in several battles in the Pacific.

Each brother returned from the war to a new life and a world of possibilities. They married, had active and successful careers, and between the three of them had 10 children.

George passed away in 1954 and Alan in 1980. Dad lived to be 90 years old. On July 14 of this year, my siblings and I quietly celebrated his 100th birthday.

This Friday, you’ll find me sitting under three large sugar maples rooted deep in the New Hampshire soil. When the three trees were planted more than 70 years ago they were saplings. Now they proudly stand more than 50 feet tall, each with a healthy girth of 3 feet in diameter.

Planted only 10 feet apart, the seven decades of growth have caused the upper branches to intertwine and expand out and into each other. If you look only at the tops of the trees they appear to share a single large crown of bright green leaves gleaming in the sun.

Each October, as the sugar maple leaves turn to brilliant orange, yellow and red, you can make out the individual trees by their colors. One side of the intertwined branches will have more orange while the other side more yellow or red.

To look below the branches at the trunks is to witness each individual tree standing at attention, brothers still.

My grandparents planted the trees out of love for their three sons and hope for their safe return from war. We are now five generations on the property, one family shaded by three old veteran maples, a gift from the first generation to today.

My dad and his brothers were but three veterans among so many. This Friday, I hope you’ll join me in remembering and honoring each and every one.

Bill Reid is chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.


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