Civil War town salutes heroes past and present

May 25, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

SHARPSBURG - A retired Air Force general paraphrased Abraham Lincoln on Saturday when he told his audience that because they were remembering those lost in battle, "they shall not have died in vain."

Major Gen. George W. Norwood, the main speaker at a memorial service at Antietam National Cemetery following Sharpsburg's annual Memorial Day Parade, said the embedded reporters in the recent war in Iraq put Americans back in touch with their military.

The reporters showed that the American military is the "best trained, best equipped, best led and best supported military in the world," he said.


Norwood also spoke of the Union soldiers killed in 1862 at the Battle of Antietam on whose graves local fifth-grade students placed flags.

"They were young. They wanted to live and they died here," he said.

Norwood, who flew combat missions in Vietnam, said he would be joining 500,000 other motorcycle riders today in Washington for an event called "Rolling Thunder." The motorcycle procession, a tribute to those who died in Vietnam, ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

A wreath-laying ceremony took place before Saturday's parade, which went through Sharpsburg to the national cemetery.

The Boonsboro High School Band set the parade's patriotic tone when it marched down Main Street to John Philip Sousa's "Thunderer." It was one of 61 units that made up the line of march.

Sharpsburg relived a bit of its own Civil War history when a Confederate honor guard marched through town to cadence set by a fife player's renditions of "Dixie" and "The Yellow Rose of Texas." One bystander yelled to them, "Welcome to Sharpsburg."

For reasons even they said they couldn't explain, the nine-member unit drew louder applause from the sidelines then a much larger contingent of Union re-enactors who followed a few minutes later.

Buddy Mellor of Sykesville, Md., a member of the Rebel re-enactors, said they are typically better received in parades than their Yankee counterparts.

"It evens happens in Gettysburg," said Sandy Anderson of Hagerstown, a member of the Confederate group.

A highlight Saturday was the appearance of Herb Myers, 83, the last charter member of the Sharpsburg Lions Club, sponsors of the parade. The club organized in 1949, Myers said.

Among other units of interest was a green Toyota pickup fashioned with a wooden cowcatcher up front - compliments of Antietam Station, a Sharpsburg model railroad club.

There were some pristine antique autos, including two Oldsmobile 98 Starfire convertibles, a blue 1962 model and a red 1964 model.

There was also a '68 robin's-egg blue Cadillac convertible.

One vehicle of particular note was the brand-new, $311,000 KME pumper owned by the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. It was making its first public appearance in Saturday's parade.

Still being fitted out, it won't be in service until next month, said Deputy Fire Chief D. T. Benner, who drove the truck.

"Rank does have its privilege," he said.

Ray and Phyllis Smock of Martinsburg, W.Va., were sitting in lawn chairs watching the units pass by.

"This is our first time here," Ray Smock said. "We heard that this was the best Memorial Day parade around and we wanted to see it. It's living up to its reputation."

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