Two 75-year American Legion members attend Slatington Memorial Day service
With the intent of honoring the oldest members of American Legion Post 16, from left, David Altrichter; the Rev. Russell F. Haab of St. John’s Lutheran Church; Donald Roberts, a 75-year member of the Legion; Dennis Ziegler, Legion committee chair, and Mayor Walter Niedermeyer surround another 75-year member, Charlie Rowlands, who handed out flags to children as the Legion made its Sunday tour of 11 cemeteries. It was his 73rd consecutive Memorial Day attendance. ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS
Charlie Rowlands, 95, was accompanied to the Memorial Day service by granddaughter Jill Dogmanits. Eleven other family members were expected. The World War II veteran is a 75-year member of the Legion.
Donald Roberts, 94, was accompanied to the Memorial Day service by daughters Barbara Grosch and Donna Keicher. He has been a member of the Legion for 75 years after his World War II service.
The Rev. Russell F. Haab, Mayor Walter Niedermeyer, Memorial Day committee President Dennis Ziegler and speaker David Altrichter participated in the service held at Union Cemetery.
Legion members rode a deuce-and-a-half-ton military truck in the parade from the Legion home to Union Cemetery.
Members of American Legion Allen O. Delke Post 16 gathered at Union Cemetery to honor those who died in this country’s wars. Delke was the first person to die in World War I from the Northern Lehigh area.
Two 75-year Legion members, Donald Roberts and Charlie Rowlands, attended the service.
Dennis Ziegler, president of the memorial committee, said the organization includes the Sons of the American Legion, the Auxiliary and Legion Riders, and Bernard Dugan is Legion commander.
“We are not here in celebration but in remembrance of the young men and women who paid with their lives. Help us to remember the price paid in human lives,” Ziegler said. The Soldiers Cross in front of the stage is a physical symbol of that dedication.
He said the Legion wants an accounting of those still missing.
The Rev. Russell Haab of St. John’s Lutheran church asked God to guide our military leaders.
Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer said it is the 99th Memorial Day parade and service held to honor our heroes.
“No ribbons or medals can replace those left behind.”
An offering was collected by Cub Scouts along with musical selections by the Northern Lehigh band directed by David Carroll, who has been in that position for 22 years.
Speaker David Altrichter was introduced by Ziegler. He joined the Naval Reserves and served on the John R. Perry in Key West, Florida. He was transferred to the machine shop. When he married, they lived in Sinking Springs and moved to Slatington in 1972, where he worked for Mack Trucks until the company moved south.
He stressed the wonderful opportunity about the organization he loves.
Altrichter said 426 men from the Northern Lehigh area served in World War I. Seven died, with some still buried on foreign soil, but it led to the creation of something special on the home front.
At the end of the war, the Expeditionary Force gathered in Paris, France. By September 1919, Congress approved the Legion as a nonpolitical, nonsectarian veterans organization. The military was shuttled to the front in box cars that held 40 men or eight horses. When there was a shortage of nurses in the 1950s, the “40 and eight” took the mission of providing scholarships for nursing students.
Altrichter said the mission of the Legion is “love of God and country.”
Legion duties include upholding and defending the Constitution, maintaining law and order, fostering and perpetuating Americanism, preserving the memories and incidents of our association in the Great Wars, inculcating a sense of individual obligation, combating autocracy, promoting peace and good will on earth, transmitting to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy, and consecrating and sanctifying our comradeship by mutual helpfulness.
Three years after his death, Delke’s body was returned to the states. A wreath is placed on his grave in the Union Cemetery every Memorial Day.
Altrichter said the founders established four pillars for the veterans organization: Veterans affairs and rehabilitation, Americanism, national security and children and youth.
Following WWII, numbers increased that could not be ignored and benefits approved.
Our American flag may be a flimsy piece of painted cloth or a beautiful banner of silk. Everyone who displays our nation’s flag demonstrates a pride in this country. Those who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States are the defenders of liberty and peace around the world.
Twice each year 2,600 flags are placed on the graves in 11 cemeteries in Northern Lehigh County where Memorial Day services are held.
In addition to the Legion, other organizations were formed. In 1922, a drum and bugle corps was formed. It was replaced with the Delke Nights corps that was Lehigh County champion from 1947 to 1958. On Dec. 24, 1924, Post 16 organized Troop 66 Boy Scouts of America. Scouting was supported for over 95 years from Tiger Cub to Eagle Scout. In 1937, Post 16 created the American Legion Ambulance Corps staffed by volunteers.
Altrichter hopes his community and the nation never forget the importance of Memorial Day.