The bitter reality of war is never as stark as when you find yourself in battle and see your comrades fall.

That sobering message was one of several points made by Sgt. Major George Holmes of Hauto at Monday's Sky-View Memorial Day Service held in front of the Sky-View Memorial Park's 1948 Mausoleum along Route 54 in Hometown, Rush Township.

Holmes, who serves as principal of Pine Grove Area High School, is a veteran of the Gulf War, where he entered combat on February 20, 1991. He also served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was wounded.

Under warm, breezy skies, Holmes spoke of the pain of loss, and how it naturally impacts human behavior.

Such was the case for Holmes on January 18, 2008, when he lost two of his fellow soldiers.

The shock was the start of a long healing process, he said. In an especially moving moment, Holmes said pain is something all of us endure when we lose those we love. And pain can be difficult to manage.

"I didn't attend the last two memorial services because the pain was too great," he said to 140 attendees.

But he also said the emotions of honoring those who gave their lives for us can be powerful even when the faces are unknown.

"Sometimes, the guilt of not knowing the fallen is as great as the pain of losing someone you know."

The service was sponsored by the Isganitis, Heckman, Messerschmidt Post 973, Quakake American Legion. Participating in the service were Dale Kline, honor guard commander and master of ceremonies; Carmen Forke, Quakake, commander; the Rev. James Greaser, retired U. S. Army chaplain; chaplain; Steve Datchko, Delano, rifle squad; Ed Sabol, Barnesville, adjutant; and the Rev. James Greaser, retired U.S. Army chaplain. Also participating were honor guard members Floyd Herring, Jim Shaup, and Dan Datchko, all of Delano. Offering taps and echo taps was bugler Jerome Machey, McAdoo. .

The Rev. Greaser noted that Sky-View Memorial Park is the final resting place of 2,964 service men and women.