Yesterday, Stan Zuber of Summit Hill explained why Memorial Day is "a very special day."
Zuber, 75, a retired educator who spent four years in the Air Force, told a gathering in Summit Hill's Ludlow Park, "War has given meaning to me because I was able to put a face on it."
He spoke of individuals from Summit Hill whom he had known personally, who left to fight in wars and died in action.
The program in Ludlow Park was held just prior to an hour-long, five division parade which served as a remarkable tribute to veterans.
There was representation in the line of march from throughout Carbon County as well as Coaldale, Tamaqua, and even Whitehall; there were floats, marchers of several generations, and, of course, numerous military contingents.
The Summit Hill American Legion had a float listing the names of sons of the community who died in military conflict. The Summit Hill Historical Society put in a float with a billboard that read, "We thank those who died protecting our family." A float by the Schuylkill-Carbon Marine Corps League depicted the flag raising at Iwo Jima.
Four bands, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth from various sporting teams, community organizations, well-dressed firefighters in marching units, fire apparatus, ambulance squads, and Clydesdale horses were in the line of march.
The parade was led by about 30 members of the Summit Hill American Legion, including National Guard members.
The Panther Valley High School Band was featured in the first division, accompanied by 28 members of the school's JROTC unit. In addition, numerous JROTC members wore their club uniforms while performing with the high school band.
The Diligence Fire Company of Summit Hill displayed its apparatus, along with 26 members in a marching unit.
There also were marching units with the Lansford and Tamaqua Fire departments.
The Carbon-Schuylkill Marine Corps League had about 15 marchers.
The morning's events began with the Ludlow Park program.
Zuber, in speaking about the personalization of war, noted that the small town of Summit Hill had 958 sons serve in World War II, and 38 of them were killed.
"Everybody was a part of World War II," he said, before noting that things have changed.
"I remember the ugliness of Vietnam," Zuber noted, adding that finally the Vietnam veteran has been restored to his rightful status.
He said of the current wars in the Middle East, "Unlike World War II, where all families carried the burden of war, today the soldier, his wife, his children, and his family carry all the burden."
The speaker said that his goal now is "to promote peace and good will. Remember our veterans, but promote peace and good will."
The main speaker was Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek, who talked about the importance of government to reward veterans for their service to our country.
He said in Carbon County, during 1998, veterans received accumulatively less than $500,000 in compensation. In 2009, the figure had risen to $843,000.
O'Gurek pointed out that in the past three quarters, compensation to Carbon veterans has totaled $1.1 million.
"Memorial Day is to remind you that our freedoms are not a gift," he said.
He explained to the gathering, "It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet, who gave us free speech. It is the veteran, not the campus speaker, who gave us freedom to assemble. It is the veteran, not the lawyers, who gave us freedom of a fair trial. And it is the veteran, not the politician, who gave us the right to vote."
Mayor Paul R. McArdle Sr., past commander of Summit Hill American Legion Post 316, spoke about MIAs and POWs.
Three Marian Catholic High School students participated. They were David Paul, who read the Gettysburg Address; Devin Porambo, who presented Logan's General Orders, and Kristen Halenar, who read "Flanders Field."
Gregory Miller, chaplain of Post 316, gave the roll call of deceased veterans.
The Pocono Regional Bagpipe Players presented several selections.
Rev. Jim Burdess of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Summit Hill, offered the invocation and benediction.