Pennsylvania National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Paul A. Shutter called on the public to do two things in tribute to our veterans.

"Visit the gravesites and give thanks," whenever possible, said the Lansford resident. But just as important: "Reach out and shake the hand of a defender of freedom," and tell them you appreciate their sacrifice, or simply just say thanks.

That was the key message at Monday's annual Sky-View Memorial Park Cemetery service held near the mausoleum at 108 Lafayette Avenue, SR54, Hometown.

Sgt. Shutter and his wife are the parents of two in the military and a third child currently in the Panther Valley Reserve Officer Training Corps.

He reminded attendees of the price paid by many families, a price that is sometimes the ultimate sacrifice. "Freedom isn't free. It comes with a great cost in human terms. He spoke of the 620,000 victims of the American Civil War, 116,000 of the Great War, 400,000 in World War II, 58,000 in Viet Nam, and others, plus never to forget those buried in foreign soil and the POW/MIAs.

"The number of Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice is staggering," said Shutter, a veteran serving with the Pa. National Guard in Hometown. "Why do they do it? A call to duty and a sense of purpose. The character of men and women serving is vibrant with meaning," Shutter emphasized.

Veteran Dale D. Kline welcomed over 80 attendees and pointed out that Sky-View is indeed an appropriate venue to honor veterans. "We've topped 3,000 men and women who served, just in this cemetery. Because of them, our lives are free," said Kline.

The annual salute to veterans is conducted by the Isganitis-Heckman-Messerschmidt American Legion Post 973, Quakake.

Invocation and benediction were offered by Chaplain and Lt. Commander Jim Greaser, USMC retired and Commander of Tamaqua AMVETS Post 1.

A moving salute to the honored dead was offered by the Legion rifle detail comprised of Carmen Forke, Ron Dietrich, Steve Datchko and Ed Sabol, with honor guard provided by Dan Datchko and Jim Shaup, and Lloyd Herring, sergeant-at-arms, who placed a wreath in honor of those who gave their all.

Taps and echo taps were provided by Jerome Machay.