Service attendees taken on trip down memory lane
LIZ PINKEY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Durbin Wagner, right, presented the Memorial Day address during the 144th Annual Memorial Day Service at Odd Fellows Cemetery and Helene and Russel Kellner, who served as the Grand Marshal of Tamaqua's Parade. Kellner is a 91 year old Tamaqua resident who served in World War II.
Tamaqua's 144th Annual Memorial Day Service was held at Odd Fellows Cemetery under bright sunny skies and a gentle breeze. Master of ceremonies Jon Zizelmann welcomed the crowd, many of whom had previously attended Tamaqua's Memorial Day Parade. The Tamaqua Raider Band was on hand to provide the National Anthem and several other patriotic selections. Zizlemann welcomed the parade's Grand Marshal Russel L. Kellner, a 91 year old World War II Veteran, who served in both Europe and Japan during the war. Zizlemann also presented the Poppy Queen, Shaina Ristila. The Reverend Ed Noftz provided the invocation and the benediction.
Tamaqua senior Kayla Hope, the Tamaqua Business and Professional Women's Club Young Woman of the Year, read In Flanders Fields, a poem by John McCrae. Hope also provided a brief history of how McCrae came to write the poem, which was written to honor the war dead of World War I.
Tamaqua native Durbin Wagner gave the annual address. Remembering his days as a boy, growing up on East Broad Street, Wagner recalled when he "was about to learn just what preservation of freedom was all about." Remembering early morning paper deliveries with his older brother, Bruce, Wagner took many Tamaquans on a stoll down Memory Lane as he described the smells of the Texas Lunch and Coney Island Hamburgers.
"On one of those days, in 1944, I remember saying to Bruce that I kept seeing the letters W-A-R in the front page headlines and I wondered what that was all about," said Wagner. "He said to me that he letters spelled 'war' and that we had to be in it because others wanted to take away our right to do the things we chose." "I was not to worry, because 'our boys won't allow them,'" he told me.
Wagner related the story of a young Tamaqua soldier who "made the headlines by driving his damaged tank into the lines of a crack Panzer division in the Battle of Scheidan and prohibiting their surprise assault on our allied troops." "Somehow, he miraculously saved the day and many lives plus his own, for which he received the Silver Star, the Soldier's Medal and one of two Purple Hearts." "That man was Frank Camerini and we honor him today as his name appears in our program of fallen heroes," said Wagner.
"To those who died, to all of those who fought, we owe the honor of our respect for delivering to us, FREEDOM... upon nothing less than the commitment of their lives and the willingness to lose them, for that defense," Wagner proclaimed. "So let us pause, with respect and honor, on this Memorial day to remember those who fought, for those who gave their lives, and for those who willingly stand ready today to do the same, without question, when the defense of freedom calls on them."
Wagner closed with a plea from a dying soldier to his friend in arms, "when you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today." "To that soldier, we will say this today and every Memorial Day after, 'We hear you buddy, and we shall never forget your gift to us!'"
Following Wagner's remarks, the roll call of deceased veterans who passed away since last Memorial Day was read and the Memorial Wreath was placed at the foot of the Soldier's Circle Monument by Tamaqua Mayor Christian Morrison. During the playing of Taps, balloons were released to commemorate each of the veterans.