Parade honors Slatington veterans
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Col. Pete Peters, Rev. Martin Nuscher of St. Paul's Indianland UCC (standing behind Ziegler), Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer, Lt. Colonel Dwight Sweezy-United States Army retired, Dennis Ziegler, Nancy Stott-St. Paul's church historian and Pastor Linda Sweezy await their turns to speak.
A parade from the post home of Allen O. Delke American Legion Post 16, Slatington opened the observation of Memorial Day at Union Cemetery.
The Legion color guard led the parade followed by the flag of the Sons of the American Legion.
Past Commander Dennis Ziegler was the master of ceremonies. He said it was the 90th consecutive American Legion Post 16 ceremony for Memorial Day. The boroughs of Slatington and Walnutport were thanked for replacing the flags on the streets. He announced that the commander of the Memorial Day committee was on his way to Iraq via California.
The Northern Lehigh High School band played "America." Pastor Linda Sweezy, a recent resident of Slatington, prayed in gratitude that we are able "to once more in freedom gather to remember our Armed Forces. Our freedom was earned at a high cost."
Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer said Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was known, was to honor Civil War veterans, but has expanded to include those from all wars.
"I asked a child what Memorial Day meant," and he said it was the day the pools opened. Veterans memorials should be visited on all days, flowers should be placed on veterans' graves, and the POW-MIA flag should be flown. He asked everyone to participate in a moment of remembrance to be held at 3 p.m.
Ziegler said Orator of the Day Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Sweezy, United States Army retired, was a chaplain and served for 27 years. He did one tour in Vietnam and is with the active reserve. He took many classes and earned several awards.
Sweezy began his talk by saying he is proud to be a new resident of Slatington.
It is important to recognize the core values by which the military serves, lives and dies. "It is no coincidence that we gather in a cemetery for generations have. We have monuments of marble to remind us."
More than 1 million have died in the country's conflicts. Just last week the 1,000th casualty came home from Afghanistan. He was a Pennsylvanian.
Sweezy said women in the South were cleaning Confederate graves and looked to the side where Union graves were uncared for. They expanded their attention to those graves also, laying flowers on both.
For decades we have honored those who have served even unto death.
An elementary school in Allentown began the Penny Power for Veterans project which raised money to benefit veterans. It is the power of the individual that, though small, is truly amazing.
"Well, who are these soldiers."
General Douglas MacArthur said "I don't know the conditions of their birth, but I know the conditions of their deaths. This does not mean they are warmongers. The soldier is for peace."
"Those of us who have served know the truth of the general's words. Each new enlistee takes an oath that exemplifies the reason soldiers do what soldiers do all the time," said Sweezy.
They adopt a set of values that include loyalty meaning to be trustworthy, duty meaning to fulfill obligations, respect meaning to treat people as they should be and as they would want to be and self-service in the famous words of Pres. John Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."
Honor is to live up to a set of core values and integrity is doing what you know you should. "We can start to pay our debt by living these values," Sweezy said.
Ziegler presented plaques to Sweezy and to Joshua Gyory. Gyory has played "Taps" at many Legion events including military funerals.
He said a few descendents of Samuel Kress for whom the Civil War memorial in the cemetery was donated were in attendance. Everyone was invited to walk up the hill and view the memorial after the service. It was being rededicated in its 101st year. (See Friday's TIMES NEWS.)
The band played the "Star-Spangled Banner" and Pastor Sweezy gave the benediction.
The Legion firing squad offered a salute and "Taps" was played by Gyory and John Hudicka with one bugler echoing the other.