The steady, slow rhythm of a drum announced the nearness of the Memorial Day parade in Slatington. After visiting cemeteries in the early morning, the Allen O. Delke Post 16 American Legion formed a parade at the post home and led it to the Fairview Cemetery for the memorial program.
Among the marchers were members of the Legion, police, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, the Northern Lehigh High School band, a NOVA ambulance and re-enactors of the 12th Philippine Division of World War II dressed in the uniform of 1941. It was Todd Leibenguth of the re-enactors who beat the drum.
The stage was on the back of an Army 1968 Kaiser 2-1/2 ton truck.
The Rev. Brian Haas of Christ United Church of Christ, Walnutport, prayed, "We know that You feel our pain and our sorrow, our pride and grace. We also pray for a world-wide peace."
Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer thanked the American Legion for this 91st consecutive ceremony. More than 1 million died in war since 1776. You have come here to honor those who died.
People shop and have family picnics with no memory of what made that possible, but that is changing with Iraq and Afghanistan making it a day when we remember.
The Northern Lehigh Band played as the audience sang "God Bless America." It offered another selection as Cub and Boy scouts collected an offering.
Dennis Ziegler, president of the Memorial Day committee, introduced the speaker, Joseph Garrera, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum.
Garrera said Memorial Day is the most important holiday. It began as a day to decorate graves in Charleston, S. C. in May 1865, and was officially recognized at Arlington Cemetery in May 1868 as a day of reflection.
It honored men and women who died in service to America. He said the Lehigh Valley had several claims to fame for its patriotism. George Taylor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, lived here, the first soldier to be buried in Arlington was William Christman, a Lehigh Valley man; and the First Defenders were the first to respond to President Abraham Lincoln's call for people to protect the capital.
From Bunker Hill to Asia they preserved for us the freedom that makes us the envy of the world. In our modern era it is easy to forget those who gave their lives, said Garrera.
He quoted George Washington who said, "Once we appreciate how our own well-being, prosperity and liberties are all products of living in this country as opposed to any other, we all become natural patriots."
We are here to pay our respects - to pay a debt we can never repay. We honor the men and women who loved their country more than their own lives.
"I know they are here with us today as they were in November 1863 when Abraham Lincoln wanted to make sense of all the deaths. He spoke no word of malice," Garrera said.
With the urgency to find those missing in action in Vietnam, it was hard to remember the 80,000 who are missing from World War II. There is no closure for the parents - no words can express the great sorrow.
Allen O. Delke, for whom the Legion Post was named, died nine days before the armistice was signed on Nov. 2, 1918, in World War I. Delke and millions like him gave their all. Thy will never be forgotten. All around us are great American heroes. We cannot name them all, said Garrera.
"Our war dead did not forget America - never forget them."
The Quartet of Five sing "God Bless the USA" and the military anthems.
The school band led the audience in the "Star Spangled Banner."
In Haas' benediction he said, "May God watch over and protect this nation which we will hand down to our children."
Ziegler asked bugler John Hudicka to come to the stage. He presented him with a plaque in thanks for the years he played "Taps" for the American Legion.
The Legion Firing Squad saluted the dead and once again "Taps" sounded in honor of the veterans who died.