Hagerstown honors dead from all wars


by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Rest Haven

Amid the backyard barbecues, newly opened swimming pools and families returning home from their three-day weekends, there was another kind of Memorial Day observed in Hagerstown Monday.

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That was the real Memorial Day - a time for solemn reflection on the nation's fallen soldiers.

"We've forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day," said Charles Brown, owner of Rest Haven Cemetery.

The Pennsylvania Avenue cemetery, adorned with hundreds of American flags in honor of veterans buried there, held its annual Memorial Day program before about 200 people, who came to listen to a variety of music and pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their country.


"I'm just trying to remind people of what Memorial Day is all about," Brown said.

The program featured "Amazing Grace" by bagpipe player Matt Williams, "Echo Taps" performed by area trumpet players, and a mix of patriotic and World War II-era music played by the Appalachian Wind Quintet.

"It gives a very warm feeling of patriotism," said Barbara Bland, flutist for the quintet.

Margaret Brown, a Hagerstown resident who attended the program with her husband, Paul, said she first came to the program four years ago.

"We enjoyed it very much and came back every year since," she said, adding that she also takes time to lay flowers of the gravesites of many relatives buried at the cemetery.

Amy Hoffman, 20, has been playing the trumpet at the program for the past four years, ever since she was a student at North Hagerstown High School. Now a student at Hagerstown Junior College, she said services like those at Rest Haven remind people what Memorial Day is all about.

"Kids my age really don't think about it anymore," she said.

The message isn't just lost on the youth, said Donna Whittington of Hagerstown.

"So many people don't fly the American flag anymore, and I think that's sad," she said.

Her husband, Gary, said he thinks most people see Memorial Day as merely an extra day off. But surveying the crowd at Rest Haven, he saw a revived appeal in the day's true meaning.

"I think people are changing and they are more interested," he said.

At Rose Hill Cemetery on South Potomac Street, the sun shone on a small group that gathered to honor America's war dead.

The message was familiar, the reverence unmistakable.

Ray Linebaugh, president of the Joint Veterans Council, gave a staggering perspective on the cost of freedom over the history of America.

"We honor each of the 600,000 veterans who have fallen in the 222 years that America has been a country," Linebaugh said.

Donna Rowe Peters came to the Rose Hill ceremony because of her roots in the service of her country.

"I was a nurse with the 167th Air Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., during the 1960s. I wanted to come to this program for that reason and to honor my dad, who is buried here," Peters said, noting her father served in World War II.

While Memorial Day's meaning has been clouded over the years into a holiday from school and a time for picnics, Linebaugh said he believes no veteran would begrudge any of those activities.

"But we must not forget why the day was established and that was to remember the sacrifices," he said.

In addition to about a dozen civilians who showed up for the program, many neighbors on South Potomac Street ventured outside to watch and listen.

Linebaugh spoke of all the heroes who gave their lives for their country, but stressed the 39 Americans who died during the 15-month operation in 1948 known as the Berlin Airlift.

"More than 3.2 million tons of supplies were delivered to Berlin during that first battle of the Cold War," Linebaugh said.

It was that operation that first tested the mettle of Americans serving so far away 50 years ago, Linebaugh said.

Now, as a new millennium approaches, Linebaugh issued a challenge to continue to honor all veterans by safeguarding the peace for which they fought.

"Taps" and a 21-gun salute by Morris Frock Post No. 42 concluded the service.

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