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Veterans mark traditional Memorial Day

May 30, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

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HALFWAY - Five days after most people enjoyed a Memorial Day holiday designated so workers have a three-day weekend, a group of about 50 Washington County veterans and local officials observed the traditional Memorial Day in a solemn ceremony Saturday morning.

Gathered at the county Veterans Memorial Garden in Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park, various veterans organizations laid wreaths and spoke in tribute of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

"Some of them gave their lives just so we can fly that flag there," said Jim Sprecher, vice president of the county Joint Veterans Council, as he pointed to the American flag.

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Ray Linebaugh, council president, said he and many other veterans feel the service is more appropriate when held on the actual Memorial Day, not the one observed for the federal holiday.

"We feel as though Memorial Day is May 30 and this is the way it should be," Linebaugh said.

Others also lamented the demise of the actual Memorial Day.

"I dread the day when the Fourth of July will no longer exist and Independence Day will be held on the 7th because it is a Monday," said Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy, who attended the ceremony held before honor guards from various groups.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said, "Too many people today do not know why we really celebrate Memorial Day."

In his speech at the ceremony, Army Lt. Col. Francis D. Clepper Jr., garrison commander at Fort Ritchie, challenged those in attendance to teach the true lessons of Memorial Day to people half their age.

"I think that's a very important challenge that each of us take up," he said.

But Clepper and other speakers said Memorial Day isn't just about looking to the past; it also sends a contemporary message, even in the post-Cold War era, that the country should always be vigilant in the defense of liberty.

"We cannot afford to relax our alertness," he said.

The ceremony also gave veterans a chance to see the progress of a memorial retaining wall being built near the garden. The wall is being built with donated money, materials and time, Linebaugh said, and will be completed in July.

"The veterans and the contributors are helping to make this dream a reality," Linebaugh said.

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