"Three pews weren't enough. You never know," said the Rev. Kevin Fruchtl of Ebenezer United Church of Christ, New Tripoli. Those three pews had been reserved for the members of American Legion Allen O. Delke Post 16 of Slatington, as they came to honor deceased members with a service of remembering those who had passed on during the past year.
"We don't have honoring for preschool and Veterans' Day on the same day. This year it was a quirk of the calendar," Fruchtl continued.
He said the two events blend. These people fought not for the Democrats or Republicans but for the children.
We come together in this place that we embody with what the church means. He said what you think is right should not be allowed to get in the way of what is truly right.
Choirmaster Brad Lizotte turned to the veterans and said, "I thank each and every one of you that put your lives at risk for God and country." He went on to explain the meaning of the choral anthem, "The Day I Lay My Isaac Down," in which Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son but when he was willing, God told him a ram would be sufficient.
The Bible reading from Matthew includes the words, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my (Jesus) sake shall find it."
The children from the preschool sang three songs - two chosen by them and a third audience-participation song chosen by the school director Debbie Wanamaker. It was "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." The second verse ends with "stamp your feet" which caused the entire floor to shake.
The children's message was about words. "We have some people here who did some special things." The children said the word was "veterans," but Fruchtl said it is "thank you" and wanted the children to say it as loud as they could.
Pictures played on a screen at the front of the sanctuary as "Jesus Loves the Little Children" was sung, first by the congregation, then by only those under age 18 and again by the congregation.
The pastor said his sermon was nonexistent because there was nothing he could give that was stronger than the smile of a child, nothing stronger than the images of veterans who were members of the church.
In the pastoral prayer Fruchtl said that words like dedication, sacrifice and commitment are no longer part of our vocabulary. "We pray for those who are separated from their families because they are serving. Help us to find the courage to do what is right even when it is not popular, and God, as the images flash across the screen we offer up the prayer that Jesus taught us."
The Veterans' service began as Fruchtl said he knows the veterans are familiar with the songs to be played by Jacob Fruchtl on the saxophone. As the military anthems were heard members and former members of the military stood to be recognized: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and anyone else who served.
Dennis Ziegler, representing Allen O. Delke Post 16, asked all past commanders to stand for recognition. He said he is president of the Memorial and Veterans' Day committee.
"We remember how men and women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their nation's cause, defending freedom of mankind and preserving our precious American heritage. We believe our strength … lay in the justice of our cause against the forces of evil. We recognize service to our country and her cause does not end with the termination of military service. We continue our endeavors in behalf of an honorable world peace with a feeling of profound gratitude to God and to the men and woman who gave their lives as their part of the cost of this noblest of causes," said Ziegler.
Shawn McKelvey, a member of the Sons of the American Legion and Legion Riders, gave the name of Scott McFarland, the only person in those two groups who died in the past year. McFarland was a member of both.
Commander Jim Gourniak Sr. read the names of members of the Auxiliary as Susan Queen placed a poppy in the wreath. Those members were Lorraine Roth, Margaret Rowlands, Irene Selvenis, Mabel Thomas and JoAnn Wehr.
The two reversed places and Queen read the names of deceased Legionaires as Gourniak placed a poppy for each in the wreath: Albert Amann, Alfred Barone, Leo Burke, Wilbur Diehl, Harold Evans, Ira Fine, James Fritz Sr., Willard Gersbach, Milton Greene Jr., Edgar Handwerk, Russel Lamlin, Russel Long, Florence Mayberry, James McCutcheon, Elias Miller, Ernest Peters, Henry Peters, Larry Peters, John Rubright, Dennis Sell, Carl Steinberg, Ronald Wehr, Eugene Weiss, Dr. Milton Young and Rudolph Zuanet.
As each name was read a bell tolled.
Everyone stood as "Taps" was played by Nathaniel Czarnecki and Marc Beleno.
"My Country Tis of Thee" and "America the Beautiful" were sung.