The Rev. Walter W. Breiner Jr. will lead Carbon County’s tribute to America
The Rev. Walter W. Breiner Jr. of White Bear, Summit Hill, has been selected by the Summit Hill Memorial Day Parade Committee to lead the 2019 parade, Carbon County’s largest tribute to America’s servicemen and women, which will take place on Monday beginning at 11 a.m. at Ludlow Park.
Breiner will ring the old bell of the former Summit Hill High School, signaling the step off the line of march that will head west on Ludlow Street, around St. Joseph Catholic Church and proceed east for the full length of White Street.
The parade will follow the traditional memorial services that will begin at 10 a.m. in Ludlow Park.
Parade committee Chairman Thomas Vermillion said, “Walt has been a big part of the Summit Hill community for as long as I can remember. I grew up with his children, Donna and Wally, and he was always involved with the things they did. He was a member of our church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, until he went on to be a pastor himself. He’s dedicated to serving the community in many ways. He’s a longtime member of the Legion and is well deserving of the honor. We’re happy he accepted the unanimous nomination.”
“I am most honored and also quite surprised to be selected as the grand marshal,” Breiner said. “There is not anyone more surprised than me that I was asked. I never felt I did anything special or anything in the military that would warrant this. I look at veterans and say to myself ‘they did so much more than me.’ ”
He added, “Once the excitement wore off, I thought I can stand 20 veterans in front of me, and there’s 20 that I feel deserve this honor more than me.”
A 1971 graduate of Panther Valley High School, Breiner enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18.
“With few jobs in the area, I felt it was a good option for me,” he recalled. “With the anti-war sentiments held by many of my age, it wasn’t a popular choice among many of my peers and classmates. Nonetheless, I began basic training at Recruit Training Command in Orlando, Florida.”
Upon completion of that training, Breiner’s orders sent him to the West Coast to attend Hospital Corpsman School at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, the largest military hospital in the world.
He said, “The training there was challenging, both academically, and, at times, physically. During my time there, I remember receiving temporary duty to Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base. My barrack was located next to Balboa’s helicopter pad. Although my duties seemed at times routine, the ‘choppers’ were a reminder that a war was going on. We would receive injured and wounded at all hours. Some were sailors injured due to shipboard accidents; others were Marines and soldiers from a war still raging on the other side of the Pacific.”
Later, he was assigned to duties at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, where he helped to treat Marines and sailors, but where “overflow” from the Philadelphia veterans hospital were also patients.
Breiner recalled, “I was amazed to see that we not only provided treatment for active duty and retired military along with their dependents, but also those men and women veterans who served in wars of long ago,” he said. “As time passed, the war again reared its ugly head and we were told we were about to receive the released POWs who were held by North Vietnam.”
Breiner said at the time, his base was on heightened alert because they expected “anti-war protesters” to storm the gates. He remembered, “Sadly, to avoid the protesters while under the cover of darkness, we secretly received the POWs who were there to build up their strength, for they were severely malnourished, and to be treated for their wounds received as a captive.”
The grand marshal recollected, “I remember talking to one POW and he just seemed like an “average Joe” to me. I suppose we all were — just average Joes doing our job.”
Before finishing his naval career, Breiner attended the Neuropsychiatry Technician School at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, later caring for “those men suffering with various degrees of emotional trauma as of the consequences of war.”
After his military service, Breiner earned a technical degree in refrigeration from Lehigh Carbon Community College, worked in private industry and served as a deputy warden for the Pennsylvania Game Commission before moving on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Liberty University. He then entered the Theological Seminary of Philadelphia in 1997, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree and being ordained in 2001.
Initially, he served two parishes in Weatherly, then one in Shoemakersville, before accepting a call to St. John’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, where he is the current pastor.
He said, “I have attended most of my graduations. I can say with absolute certainty that I have never been more proud of a graduation than the day I stood at ‘parade rest’ and listened to the speaker say, ‘You men have graduated from one of the most difficult schools offered in the U.S. Navy.’ That was the day I earned the right to wear on my arm the medical ‘caduceus’ and became a Naval corpsman. At 18 years of age, I was known to a Marine as ‘Doc’. As time passes, many of the names of those I served along side have evaporated from memory, their faces have all but faded away. While serving in the Navy, I never felt like I did anything spectacular. I was just a single cog in the gear that made the Navy work. I always felt the men I was treating did a whole lot more.”
Breiner served commander of Summit Hill American Legion Post 316 in 1975-76; served on Summit Hill Zoning Board; and was a member of the Congregation Council St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Summit Hill.
He is married to the former Hannah “Bobbie” O’Donnell of Summit Hill. The couple has two children, Walter W. III and his wife, Mandy (Watkins), of Lake Hauto, and Donna, wife of Timothy Delaney of White Bear; and seven grandchildren, Samantha and Rebecca Jones, Brody and Jovie Breiner and Aubrey, Lydia and Adalie Delaney. An eighth grandchild, Alex Delaney, is deceased.
He is a son of the late Walter W. Sr. and Betty (Anderson) Breiner. One of four siblings, he has two sisters, Nancy, wife of Rolland Meitzler of Summit Hill, and Donna, wife of Bill Maynard of Lansford, and a brother Bob, and his wife, Brenda, of Dagsboro, Delaware.