By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend often finds people working in the garden or preparing for barbecues or heading to the beach. But not so for the Kentish Guard. For the past 80 years or more, the Guard has paid tribute to fallen members and veterans of the Civil War in what they call “rural cemetery duty.”

These days, the Guard divides the 22 cemeteries into two groups and heads out around 9 a.m. Since the ceremony at each cemetery includes a three-volley salute, they don’t start earlier, having learned the hard way that some people don’t appreciate being woken up by gunfire.

The Kentish Guard began commemorating Memorial Day back in 1868, together with the GAR (the Grand Army of the Republic), according to the Kentish Guard’s Warren Kaye. In those days, it was known as Decoration Day.

One of the cemeteries they visit is in the backyard of a house on Shippeetown Road, where the residents say they love the tradition. On Saturday, May 25, the members fire off three volleys then the fifer played taps. Then it was over and the members marched single file back to the road, just as they had come in.

“Quite a few people watch for us every year,” said Kaye.

Kentish Guard on Shippeetown Road.

The two groups end up at the Pritchard home on Moosehorn Road, where there are two cemeteries. Over the years, the Pritchards have provided a picnic for the Guard, a reward for their morning of cemetery visits.

Kaye said there are about 40 members of the Kentish Guard and they are always looking for new members, both for the militia and for the fife-and-drum corps. If you are interested, check out their website here.

On Memorial Day proper, of course, they will be marching in the East Greenwich parade that steps off from Academy Field at 10 a.m. More about the parade here.


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