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Sacrifice marked at cemetery

May 30, 2004|By TARA REILLY

SHARPSBURG

As a festive parade with marching bands, Uncle Sam and blaring fire trucks reached its end in Sharpsburg on Saturday, a more solemn ceremony followed nearby at Antietam National Cemetery.

Officials representing military groups, the town of Sharpsburg and others gathered at the cemetery to honor the country's past and present servicemen and women, and in particular, World War II veterans.

The event was part of Sharpsburg's 137th Memorial Day Commemoration. About six WWII veterans were among those who attended the ceremony.

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"These men saved the world. There's not a lot of people you can say that about," Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard said of the WWII vets, on the same day the National World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

"It was very emotional," WWII veteran Raymond Powell said afterward of the ceremony, while standing in front of thousands of graves of mainly Civil War soldiers lined with American flags.

The ceremony featured a patriotic medley from the Boonsboro High School band, wreath laying at the Private Soldier Monument and three volleys by Civil War re-enactors.

Powell said he was glad WWII veterans were the focus this Memorial Day.

"I didn't expect it, but I'm glad it happened," he said.

Powell, who served in the U.S. Army's 30th Infantry Division in WWII, attended the ceremony with his family.

His division landed at Omaha Beach in France after the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions.

"It wasn't tough going in on the beach because the 1st and 29th had already," said Powell, of Mountaindale in Frederick County, Md.

But after the division had landed, "Then it was pretty tough," Powell recalled. "They were still shelling the beach when we went in."

Throughout the ceremony, Howard read letters sent home by WWII veterans who had died in battle.

One of the letters was by a man who requested that the note only be delivered to his parents if he didn't make it back from war.

The soldier apologized to his parents for the grief his death would cause, but said "the United States is worth the sacrifice," Howard read.

Sharpsburg Mayor Hal Spielman told those in attendance not to forget the true meaning of Memorial Day - honoring veterans and service people "who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom."

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Maria C. Owens, who gave the address at the ceremony, said current servicemen and women are strengthened by those who served and fought before them.

"This is our moment to accept the challenge of our time and draw strength from those who have gone before us," she said.

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