Monday's Memorial Day and 142nd Annual Memorial Day Service at the Odd Fellows Cemetery were among the best attended events in recent years. Although more and more civic and school organizations are becoming involved in the parade every year, there may be another more sobering cause for the increase in attendance. "The thing that is upsetting is that every year, our list of World War II veterans and Korean veterans is getting larger," said parade organizer Jon Zizlemann, referring to the roll call of deceased veterans that is read every year during the service. This year's list had 66 names on it and many of their family members were in attendance to hear their loved one's name read and remember their service to our country.
The parade began on East Broad Street and was led by the Tamaqua American Legion, C.H. Berry Post #173 color guard. Joe Vlcek, a 1943 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School and decorated World War II veteran, served as the Grand Marshall.
The parade stopped at the Tamaqua Area School District Administration building for a special dedication of the newly installed flag poles. Ed Smith, the commander of the Tamaqua American Legion, led the dedication. Tamaqua Mayor Christian Morrison and Arthur Oakes, Jr. raised the American flag. State representative Jerry Knowles and State Senator David Argall raised the State flag while the Tamaqua Raider marching band played "To the Colors." The band then played the Tamaqua Alma Mater while Superintendent Carol Makuta and Tamaqua student Raymond Kinder raised the school's flag. Finally, a one shot volley was fired. "The volley is a seal that this flag will never perish," said Smith. The flags were then lowered to half mast for the Memorial Day observation.
Zizelmann served as master of ceremonies for the service at Odd Fellows. He welcomed the Tamaqua Raider Marching Band, who played the Star Spangled Banner. The Reverend David W. Grant led the invocation. Shauna Bannan, the Tamaqua Business and Professional Women's Club Young Woman of the Year read "In Flanders Field."
Joel P. Perry, a 1988 graduate of Lehighton Area School District, and Army veteran, delivered the address. "Those of us who are still breathing cannot repay the sacrifice of those who gave their lives defending us, but at the very lease, we can and we must remember them," he said. Perry cited the heroic actions of several military heroes, including Major Charles Joseph Loring, USAF, who deliberately crashed into enemy lines to eliminate the threat to his fellow pilots during the Korean War and Marine Major Megan McClung, a public affairs officer, who was killed by a road side bomb while escorting members of the media in Iraq.
Perry reminded those in attendance about the importance of looking after the families of the departed. "The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering on Thanksgiving, and the daughter who has no father to walk her down the wedding aisle are painful reminders that they are gone," he said.
Perry added that it is not enough to remember the fallen on one day a year. "We must continue the legacy for which they died: the causes of democracy, decency, and patriotism," he said. He cited the activities of the American Legion as leading the way in "preserving the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars."
Perry also called for continued support of those currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, the U.S., and more than 130 countries around the world. "Freedom is not a gift. It is an earned benefit that was paid for by the blood of our heroes," he said. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorism, the sacrifices and caliber of American's fighting men and women have been nothing short of inspirational."
The roll call of deceased veterans was read and Morrison and Vlcek placed the memorial wreath in the Soldier's Circle. The Tamaqua American Legion Color Guard then provided a 21 Gun Salute and Taps was played. During Taps, red, white, and blue balloons were released, each one signifying one of the deceased veterans. The Raider Band provided another patriotic selection and Grant closed the ceremony with the benediction.