SHIRLEY -- After viewing the selectmen's meeting Monday night on public access cable TV and reading a news story about it online the next morning, American Legion Post 183 Commander Lewis Criess called a Shirley Oracle reporter Tuesday afternoon to clear up a few points.
Criess said the selectmen's discussion of the letter sent to them by the Legion about Memorial Day conveyed "the wrong impression." The selectmen "insinuated" that the Legion would not meet with the town, he said, but that was not the case.
On April 10 at 1 p.m., Criess and two members of the Legion Executive Board met with Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, he said, and at that time hand-delivered the letter addressed to the selectmen, which Chairman Kendra Dumont read aloud Monday night.
The Memorial Day issue was discussed during the sit-down with Garvin, Criess said, adding that the town administrator asked several questions, which he and the other Legion representatives answered.
The follow-up e-mail Dumont referenced was based on that meeting, he said.
This is not the first time the Memorial Day issue has come up, but in terms of the Legion's role, it could be the last word on the subject.
In his view, citizens of Shirley think it's the Legion's job to plan and conduct the Memorial Day parade and luncheon, Criess said, but it is not.
The Legion's obligation is to honor service men and women who gave their lives for their country, he said, and that duty is carried out at the cemeteries and the bridge.
Acknowledging that the Legion hosted ancillary activities for many years and that the town might have come to expect it, Criess explained that the post no longer has the resources to do so, with active membership down to about a dozen veterans, including the eight-member Executive Committee. "We've expressed this to the town before," he said.
He said Dumont had also misconstrued his statement that he alone was authorized to speak for the Legion, comparing it to a "dictatorship." That is certainly not true, he said.
The Legion commander is a "duly elected position" and the decision about curtailing Memorial Day activities was the result of a democratic process, he said. Once the members have voted, "it's my responsibility to carry out their instructions," he said.