American Legion Post 927 salutes veterans
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert honored all veterans on Veterans Day. Helping to honor them were, from left, Rich Shay, Post 927 1st Vice Commander; Wanda Murphy Smith, Post 927 Judge Advocate; Post 927 Chaplain the Rev. James Mills; Pvt. Brandon Mundus; SSgt. Daniel Roland; Thomas Franklin, Post 927 Commander; Everett Shaver, Post 927 Past Commander; Joel Keller, director of Monroe County Veteran Affairs; Rosemary Brown, PA state representative.
American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert recognized veterans, including those missing in action, at a special service Sunday.
Debra Kennelly, president of the Ladies Auxiliary for the Post, opened the ceremony singing the national anthem. She explained how Veterans Day came to be.
"Let us remember those who gave with a grateful heart," said Kennelly.
The Rev. James Mills, Post chaplain, gave the opening prayer.
First Vice Commander Rick Shay wished the Marine Corps a happy 100th birthday. He then read the poem "We Stood for Freedom" by Roger Robicheau.
Thomas Franklin, Post 927's commander, introduced one of the guest speakers, Staff Sgt. Daniel Roland. Roland had obtained a full scholarship for music education at the age of 16, but due to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps the following September.
During his service with the Corps, Roland has risen through the ranks and has earned numerous personal decorations. He currently serves as the staff non-commisoned officer in charge of Recruiting substation Stroudsburg. He lives with his wife, Amanda and son, Chance, in Bartonsville.
"Members of today's military continue to fight to preserve our country's freedoms that our veterans fought for. It's why I became a Marine," said Roland.
Franklin introduced Pennsylvania state Rep. Rosemary Brown.
"We need to continue to protect those freedoms our veterans have fought for and continue to fight for today," said Brown. "It's my job to bring better services and benefits for our veterans ... Legislature just passed the bill to put a veteran's status on their Pennsylvania driver's license (of which she was a sponsor.)
"This October, Mario Scavello, Mike Peifer and I held our first Veterans' Expo. We want to hear from all of you how we can make it better."
The next speaker was United States Marine Corps Pvt. Brandon Mundus of Effort, who graduated from Parris Island two days before Veterans Day. He said becoming a Marine has changed his life.
"I wanted to join the brotherhood and become one of the long line of men who serves their country."
He talked about The Crucible, the final testing before graduation.
"That's when it clicked for me, crawling on my stomach holding my M16 and getting stuck underneath barbed wire. I thought, 'How am I going to get through this?' But I had an infantry man yelling at me, 'You can do this,' and I finally believed it and I got through it."
Joel Keller, director of Monroe County Veteran Affairs, gave an impassioned speech, receiving several rounds of applause and a standing ovation.
"I believe because of our citizens' continued military service in both peace and war, we remain a beacon of hope to many people throughout the world," said Keller. "People of other nations still want to come here to work and live, while others wish to study in our schools to take back with them the theory and practice of our founders' spirit in the pursuit of their own quest for democracy. Hence, we remain unique among the family of nations. Our own independence from tyranny remains secure because of what each service person and veteran has done in their generation to preserve the freedoms extolled in our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our Declaration of independence.
"Are we a unique nation? Yes, we are. Great in spirit, great in our endeavors, and great in our ability to take on the challenges of our adversaries of many nations which now have fallen in defeat," Keller added.
Wanda Murphy Smith, Post 927's Judge Advocate and Air Force veteran, said it was humbling to be a veteran and to work with veterans.
"Our country was founded on freedoms. It allows me to believe in my God. It gives me the freedom to get up every morning to fall on my knees," she said. "I'm so very grateful to be a part of this organization."
Franklin honored all those who served in the U.S. military as well as those who died for this country, "long after they stopped wearing their military uniforms. While their service obligations may have expired, their love of country endured."
He talked about two Navy SEAL veterans who died Sept. 12, 2012 while protecting their fellow Americans who were under attack at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
"A country is only as goods as the people in it. And a land that could produce such heroes is truly a land worth serving. We should all endeavor to serve our veterans as well as they have served their nation. Every day is Veterans Day."
He added that the unique needs of women veterans should not be forgotten through adequate breast and cervical cancer treatments as well as trauma that may have resulted from domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault.
"It is tragic that the men and women who allow us to be safe in our homes are often without homes themselves when they shed their uniforms. One in four of America's homeless population are veterans. Nine out of 10 were honorably discharged and nearly half served during the Vietnam War. Too often today's tattered citizen of the street was yesterday's toast-ot-the-town in a crisp uniform with rows of shining medals. This is hardly the 'thanks of a grateful nation.'
"While fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the honorable title 'U.S. military veteran,' this special group often provides the vital services that enable our communities to function.
"Chances are that if you surveyed your local police or fire department, you would find that a disproportionately high amount of its members are veterans. When an emergency hits, there is a good chance that it is a veteran that is first to respond," said Franklin.
"We must heed the words of our first Commander-in-Chief, George Washington who said in 1798, 'The willingness with which our young people will fight in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.'
"Born of their extraordinary accomplishments comes our extraordinary debt. And for those accomplishments and for their dedication, we must always be grateful."
Franklin thanked Lee Kerschner for organizing the Post's part in the Stroudsburg Veterans Day parade.
The Post's Freedom Singers Glee Club sang "America the Beautiful" and led everyone in singing "God Bless America."
A luncheon followed the service.