During one of my walks around town I discovered this WWII monument dedicated to members of the 115th Medical Regiment of the Maryland National Guard, living and dead, whose “valiant efforts helped preserve freedom in America.”
Not surprisingly there is an abundance of plaques and historic markers in this town. I think I’ve read most of them, however, I can’t get this one out of my mind.
The memorial stands as if on sentry duty at the entrance to the Chestertown Armory, constructed in 1931 and where so many young National Guard troops trained and went off to war. The armory was renovated in the 1990s and renamed in memory the late S.F.C. John H. Newnam.
I was in the National Guard in my small hometown in South Carolina, so I remember our armory well. Like so many, it was headquarters for guard training but was also a social hub for the community. From what I’ve read the same was true here.
Many small town armories have been razed and long forgotten. The Chestertown Armory is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In addition, when the property was sold to Washington College, it was stated that it would be the hub and a vital part of the riverfront campus. Let’s hope that is the end result.
Today the Armory is being used for storage, discarded items and a boat graveyard. The building is being neglected, which will surely hasten its demise and destruction. It’s less than reverent a site for a monument that memorializes the efforts of volunteers in a time of national crisis doing their part. Let’s hope it does not get lost in the waterfront redux.
Before this happens, let’s start a discussion on the monument’s future. It deserves a proper setting. Maybe it should be moved to Monument Park, where it can be more appreciated. A plaque at the original site could explain its relocation. Easier said than done.
Until then, add this memorial to your list of must visit sites in Kent County.