Former Concord resident Paul Murphy presented his memorial plaque to the Select Board for approval in December. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

A new plaque to rise at the Town House in memory of the fallen 

By Celeste Katz Marston
January 8, 2024

Paul Murphy only met Douglas Cann once, but he’ll never forget it.  

“I was on the playground — Emerson playground — putting out the bases in eighth grade, and he walked through with his girlfriend,” Murphy remembers.  

Cann, a Concord-Carlisle High School student at the time, gave Murphy and his buddy a “Hi, guys,” and strolled on with his lady. The two “kissed right at the 50-yard line,” he recalls, and my friend Jimmy said, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be us someday… with girls!’” 

A few years later, Cann, the brother of one of Murphy’s classmates, was gone — killed while serving with the Army in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam, in 1968.  

When Concord dedicated a monument to its fallen service members, Murphy saw that “it listed the Concord soldiers and Marines — but it didn’t list [Cann], a guy who went to the high school who was from Carlisle. He lived about a mile from the border. I thought that that was unfair … This kid dies for his country, [but] he can’t be on the Concord wall.” 

Now, he will be: Through Murphy’s research and determined work, Cann’s name and those of other service members who lost their lives during war and in peacetime will be honored with a new plaque at the Town House for all to see.  

Murphy says he had tried various ways — and in various places — to have Cann honored in Concord, but didn’t meet with success. Still, Murphy, himself a veteran, stayed tuned in to veteran affairs in town, including attending Memorial Day and Gold Star commemorations.  

Over time, Murphy’s quest to somehow memorialize Cann here expanded in scope to include more members of the armed forces.  

Reaching out to local historians and Lt. Col. Geoffrey Love of the Massachusetts National Guard Museum, Murphy pulled together research on servicemembers connected to Concord — including Cann — who had lost their lives since 1961.  

“I reached out to all the families,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘If anyone is against it, I’m just gonna drop it … I just wasn’t gonna harass anybody. So I said, ‘if anyone disapproves, I’ll quit.’ But nobody did.” 

Now honored on the new plaque to be displayed at the center of Concord’s government services:  

  • Dominican Republic: Daniel Roberts, 1965.  
  • Vietnam: Edward Dalton, Jr., 1966; Douglas Cann, 1968; William Emerson, 1968; Charles Sheehan III, 1968; Thomas Dickey, 1969; Richard Frank II, 1969. 
  • Iraq: Brian McPhillips, 2003. 
  • Peacetime: George Moreau, 1980; Andrew First, 1988; and Michael Pierce, 1988.  
Image courtesy of Paul Murphy

After graduating CCHS with the Class of 1970, Murphy served in the Navy from 1971 to 1975, attended UMass, and had a career with FedEx that spanned more than 30 years. He left Concord in 1981 and now lives just over an hour away in New Hampshire, but his sister-in-law still lives here in the old family home. He visits town often, he says, and served on the 50th reunion committee of his high school class.  

For help making the plaque, Murphy sought out local designer Bill Crosby. Fashioned from Corian, it bears a line from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”  

After all the research and roadblocks, in the end, Murphy’s official presentation to Concord’s Select Board last month was brief, followed by a swift unanimous vote to mount the plaque in a spot of honor next to the Town Clerk’s office — and by a round of applause.  

Now retired, Murphy still goes to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. to read the names sometimes, and to Arlington National Cemetery. He’s been to Pearl Harbor. 

“I think the fact that a couple of my classmates had their brothers killed during the war … you’re young, impressionable, and it stuck with you,” he says.  

When it comes to the families of the fallen commemorated on the new plaque, Murphy reflects, “I think I always wanted to show some compassion, which is easy to do, and [it] kind of took on a life of its own.” 

A ceremony at the Town House was scheduled for January 5 to unveil the new plaque in the memory of these 11 men who gave their lives while in service to their country all over the world.  

But for Paul Murphy, that singular memory of Douglas Cann remains – not yet lost on the field of battle, but still on a field in Concord, on the 50-yard line, alive and kissing his girl.