Lots of music and an excellent speaker made the Heritage Day program sponsored by the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce an exciting, patriotic day. The program was held July 4 in First Baptist Church, Slatington.
The Northern Lehigh Community Band played three selections as people were being seated. They were "Gallant Heroes," "Liberty Bell," and "El Capitan." Ted Steinbrecher is the director.
Master of Ceremonies Jason Breidinger, immediate past president of the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce, said he looks forward to the Heritage program as "the most special thing we do."
Members of the Allen O. Delke American Legion Post 16, Slatington, posted the colors, and the audience, accompanied by the band, sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and pledged allegiance to the flag.
The Rev. James LeVan gave the invocation first quoting Benjamin Franklin: "Do we imagine we no longer need his assistance … Is it possible a country can rise without his assistance."
He continued with the invocation saying we gather 235 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. We remember those who fought and those who died. We ask your guidance as we continue to learn to live together.
The band played "Amber Waves of Grain," a version of "America the Beautiful."
The Northern Lehigh Freedom Chorus sang "Blessed are the Peacemakers" which ends with "These are the children of God." Anna Mary Milot is the chorus director and pianist, The fashions of the day for the chorus were in red, white and blue.
The band played "His Honor" followed by an Armed Forces salute - joined by the choir which sang the anthems. As each anthem was sung people who had been in that branch of the military service or who had near relatives in it were asked to stand for recognition.
As Breidinger introduced the speaker, Major Nathan Klein, USAF Retired, he said he had a chance to talk to Klein before the program and realizes he has a depth of knowledge.
Klein was born in Allentown, and was attending college when the country went to war in Europe. At age 18 he needed a parent to sign for him. They would not because they wanted him to complete his college education. So he got his uncle to sign.
Two tables filled with artifacts about his time in the service were set up in the front of the church. Among them was a newspaper story about his receipt of France's highest military award on the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Klein said there were 11 million men and women in the service and 8 million of them were support personnel - noncombatants who supported us.
He joined the Army Air Force 69 years ago when the country was coming out of the Depression.
"After Pearl Harbor the entire world changed. Had we lost, only God knows where we would be today," Klein said.
He wanted to be a fighter pilot but did not have the 20-20 vision required for that position.
He was shipped to Miami Beach. It took seven days by train, he said. Body odor was horrendous. They went to a hotel where the food was horrible - on the segregated side it was good so he sneaked over and was caught and warned not to do it again.
His group landed in Scotland, where he became a bomber-navigator because they were dying so fast there were never enough. He completed the nine-month course in nine weeks.
To be sure he could pass the eye exam this time, he memorized the eye chart. When he started it took 35 flights to complete a bomber mission. That was raised to 45 and then to 65 because there were never enough crews. He flew with four different crews and completed his 65 tours before his original crew. His group was nicknamed the Wolverlions.
A war correspondent accompanied them on one mission. His work became a newsreel in the Allentown movie theater and when his parents saw it his mother screamed, "That's my son, that's my son!"
One time the plane's gas tanks were punctured by shrapnel and leaked. They pulled off the runway at the same moment the plane quit for lack of fuel.
On D-Day he saw the string of ships crossing the channel from 8,000 feet, but they had to go to 4,000 because of cloud cover. It made it more dangerous for anti-aircraft fire.
Another time flak flew between his feet and damaged the navigational maps on the ceiling. He had other close calls he talked about.
Klein said the greatest generation will always be the one with people in the military.
The chorus sang "Heal Our Land" including the words "keep us safe and free … help us find a way."
The audience joined in singing "America the Beautiful," and the band played the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Breidinger presented a plaque to Klein, saying that Klein claims he is retired but even today he is not finished. The plaque was in appreciation of giving his time and wisdom for the benefit of the community.