While many Americans took advantage of the long holiday weekend that marks the "unofficial start of the summer season" to enjoy the improving weather, cook-outs, and time with family and friends, some also took time to remember and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.
United Veterans Organization of Lehighton marked the holiday by remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
"It's so important to show our appreciation for what our troops had to do in order to preserve our freedom," said Robert Berger, president of the Shoemaker-Haydt Lehighton American Legion Post 314 Korean War Last Man's Club.
Fellow Korean War veteran Randy Rabenold agreed.
"It's important for us to remember those who gave their lives including my buddy, Robert Kipp."
On Monday morning, veterans joined members of the combined Lehighton Band and Lehighton Boys and Girls Band, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies and students from SS. Peter and Paul School for a service at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Lehighton. The Rev. Michael Ahrensfield, pastor, offered the invocation and benediction.
Seventh-grade students Kennedy Malsch and Mary Wilhelm read their winning entries in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot's Pen Essay Contest.
Lehighton Area Middle School teacher and historian Ronald Rabenold shared interesting and personal stories of veterans buried in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery.
"These veterans served our country honorably," said Rabenold. "Your presence here today honors them."
Major General Marvin J. Barry, United States Air Force, retired, reminded the crowd, "Those who paid the ultimate sacrifice never got the opportunity to fulfill their life's hopes and dreams. They gave their lives for our freedom."
Memorial Day services moved on to Lehighton Cemetery as UVO Chaplain John Stefanik offered the invocation and benediction.
"We honor those who served and continue to serve to preserve our freedom," said Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig in his welcoming remarks. "Take the time and thank these veterans for a debt that we can never repay."
Quoting President John F. Kennedy, main speaker 2nd Lt. Shawn K. Updegrove, PLT LDR DET1 131 TRANS Co., said "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors the men it remembers."
He also reflected on the sacrifices made by the families spouses, children, and parents of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"We must ensure that they are not forgotten."
American Legion Past Post Commander Harry J. Wynn III was in charge of both Memorial Day services. He recognized all Vietnam-era veterans in the crowd for their "sacrifice, valor and service."
Participants then paraded to the American Legion Post Home for a brief flag-raising ceremony and refreshments.
Thanking all who participated in the Memorial Day programs, Lehighton UVO President K.M. "Spike" Long concluded, "May we never waver in our respect to those brave men and women who gave their lives for our freedom and for all that we enjoy."