Last Monday, May 25, was Memorial Day and being an aging veteran it has long held special meaning for me. It's not that I'm particularly boasting about being in the service or my time spent in that Far Eastern "resort across the pond" in the mid-sixties that I say that. That respect goes back before the days I even contemplated signing up. That special meaning was in grained in me from an early age by family members that served in the last "big one", as they sometimes call WWII. It's something I tried to teach our children all the while hoping they would not have to experience the rigors of war. It's something that I consider a prerequisite to truly appreciating what those before us and those still today have done to make America the land of the free. Not everyone is meant to serve in the Armed Forces but the liberties we enjoy today would not be the same if it wasn't for those that answered the call to arms. American history would be entirely different if it wasn't for our veterans.
For the first time since I was a grade schooler I attended all the ceremonies organized and arranged by Wellsville's Memorial Council. "Go-for" Don Brown invited me to the breakfast the members of the Tommy Mackall VFW Post generously provided to everyone and anyone that was part of the day's ceremonies and that's where I started. By the way, I call Don that only because when asked what position he held with the Council he told me he was just a "go for". You have to look at the program to see his actual title. If you know Don...
Our Memorial Council is not unique to Wellsville but if there was a contest to judge the Memorial Day ceremonies I'd be willing to bet they would come out on top compared to any other across this nation. It's got to be one of the most impressive around. Reporter Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert did a whale of job with her coverage. That was also impressive. So, let me tell you about some of the things not reported that caught my eye.
I was impressed with all that showed up to be part of the ceremonies and the turn out of others at both the Square and the cemetery. There was the police officers all decked out in neatly pressed uniforms and hats. You just knew some of them were coming off the over night shift and some of them had the day off. Then there were the members of the Wellsville VFD that came straight from the Pits after spending all night on a search & rescue mission. They were still in turn out gear. There was the young ladies from the Glenmore American Legion Post 73 Junior Auxiliary. There was Jennifer Gooch and the WHS Band. There was the Croskey brothers providing the sound system both at the Square and up at the cemetery. There were the active members of the military in uniform, most of them already Iraqi veterans and will probably be going back for another tour. There was Judge Melissa Byers-Emmerling, the key note speaker, giving not one but two meaningful, heartfelt speeches. There were the high school students that recited the Gettysburg Address, Flanders Field & Hallowed Ground dressed up for their part that also participated with the band. One young lady had heels on and marched in the parade. There were the members of the Beaver Local Jr. ROTC pulling honor guard duty. There were the ladies and their soundman from Beaver County, PA, that make up the group Rivers of Joy. Their rendition of Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA got people waving flags and even some shedding a tear or two. There was the young lady, the bugler from the WHS band, performing Taps waffing across the cemetery that always bring a tear to my eyes. There was Mel Boggs, a WWII vet that has been part of the council for 51 years, making the effort just to be there. There were the officers of the WPD that stood for at least an hour in the hot sun in those black uniforms waiting to give the 21 gun salute. There's the crew that obviously put in a lot of hours getting the cemetery in show case shape. There were all the flags through-out the cemetery memorising over 1,400 veterans buried up there. Then there was SGT Todd Farnsworth, USAR, presenting flags that have actually flown in Iraq to three different organizations in the village. He also reminded us to not forget what the troops on active duty are doing still yet since the wars in the Mid-east have started. "Tell a soldier thanks, fly those flags at home and keep those yellow ribbons stuck to your cars, lest we forget". Amen Sarge.
Pictured above is a couple of WWII vets waiting for the start of the ceremonies. Jim Stewart, on the right, served in the Pacific Theater and Meryle "Spec" Kenney served in Europe. That's SGT Farnsworth in fatigues with members of WPD. He's already pulled a tour in Iraq and will probably be going back. Then there's Mel Boggs with Judge Byers-Emmerling. Boggs was credited with starting the Memorial Council. The three guys standing together is, from the left, Mike Shepherd, ville native Craig Williams and Farnsworth again. Mike is one of the "hootches". Williams is a USAF recruiter in Steubenville and a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq. Finally is a couple of parade viewers that were quite interested in all that was going on.
Everybody loves a parade, even our canine friends... Thanks to all that helped made this holiday truly memorial.