Main Street salutes veterans


SHARPSBURG - Gavin Williams sat on a bench in front of Sharpsburg Town Hall Saturday morning waiting for the Memorial Day celebrations to start.

"They really got the spirit that all the towns used to have," he said.

The spirit Williams spoke of was the true meaning of Memorial Day - remembering those who died in the nation's service.

"The parking lot at Wal-Mart will be jammed this morning, but people can't take the time to come to something like this," said Williams, 77, an Army veteran from Charles Town, W.Va.


He said he has been coming to the Sharpsburg Memorial Day services and parade for nine years, usually with his grandchildren.

What Williams saw in Sharpsburg, the site of the bloody Civil War Battle of Antietam 140 years ago, was a brief ceremony in the town square with the laying of wreaths at veterans' monuments and patriotic speeches.

This year, the speakers went beyond the familiar call to honor the nation's war dead, giving reminders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We say, 'It won't happen here,' " said Sharpsburg Mayor Sidney Gale.

Gale said "it" happened here when local men marched to Boston in the Revolutionary War, when Union and Confederate armies clashed in 1862 and four times in the last century when local citizens went to two world wars and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and when two young Washington County men died when the USS Cole was attacked in October 2000.

The speaker Saturday morning was Randall Leatherman of Fairplay who was involved in rescue operations at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attack. Gale and Leatherman asked those listening to remember firefighters, paramedics and police officers who also serve their country.

At 2 p.m., an 80-unit parade marched down Main Street to the Antietam National Cemetery for a second memorial ceremony.

Scott Anders was sitting on the front porch of his house on the corner of Md. 65 and 34 with friends and relatives.

"There's more people out this year," he said.

"I feel a lot more patriotic this year because of Sept. 11," said his brother-in-law, Tim Strickland, 40. "I'm thankful to all veterans because I have a job and can support my family."

Carol Smith's T-shirt was emblazoned with "God Bless America." She stood on the sidewalk with her husband, Bob. They live in Silver Spring, Md., and came to watch their granddaughter march with her Girl Scout troop.

"People are definitely more patriotic this year," Carol Smith said.

The Rev. Jay Bohn of Halifax, Pa., 20 miles north of Harrisburg, and his wife, Mary, sat in lawn chairs in the bed of their Ford pickup.

"We love parades, go to them whenever we can," Jay Bohn said. "We're going to one in Gettysburg Monday."

"It's an old-fashioned Memorial Day parade," his wife said.

John C. Truesdell of Hagers-town, a retired Army colonel, was appointed in January as deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for reserve affairs. He spoke at the cemetery, delivering remarks about Sept. 11.

The soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery caught glimpses of the jetliner heading to the Pentagon that day as they reeled around to change directions, he said. They felt the shock wave of the explosion when the plane hit the Pentagon, less than a mile away.

"We Americans will never give in. That day of unspeakable horror will remind Americans to remember always those who gave their last full measure of devotion," Truesdell said, borrowing a line from Abraham Lincoln.

"The values that this country has forgotten are starting to come back to us," he said. "We're fighting for our existence."

Music at the cemetery was provided by the Boonsboro High School Band and the 105th Pennsylvania Wildcat Regiment Band.

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