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Veterans honored at service at Marty Snook Park

May 31, 2004|By MARLO BARNHART

HALFWAY

The generals, admirals and other high-ranking officers of all the branches of the U.S. military likely share in the pride and honor of Memorial Day 2004.

But perhaps the true glory of the day belongs even more so to the "ordinary" veterans like 77-year-old Harry Blair of Hagerstown, who was drafted at age 18 and fought in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy.

"I feel proud to know that I shared a part of my life with the U.S. Navy during World War II," Blair said. "Each year, I come to this event and am glad so much effort is put into this Memorial Day observance."

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Across the nation, thousands of other ordinary veterans, both living and dead, were honored in similar ceremonies Sunday and will again be recognized today on the official observance of the holiday first marked in 1868.

Blair was one of about three dozen veterans who turned out Sunday for the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County's Memorial Day service at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Park in Halfway.

The keynote speaker was George Owings, who on Tuesday will officially become Maryland's Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Lest anyone misconstrue the meaning of the word "ordinary," Owings, a U.S. Marine veteran of three tours in Vietnam, stressed that it was the thousands upon thousands of veterans such as Blair who secured the reality of freedom today.

"The greatest words I can offer today are no words. In silence I ask each of you to reach inside and remember those you knew and lost," Owings said. "We all have names on the wall."

Of his new job, Owings said he is aware of the needs of veterans.

"Those needs are tremendous and they are growing," he said.

Representing U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Julianna Albowicz read a letter from the senator who also pledged her support of veterans.

"The way to serve our veterans is with programs, health care and services," Mikulski wrote in her letter. "Our veterans shouldn't have to fight again for these rights."

Though not a veteran, Scott Wissinger said he came out to the ceremony Sunday to support veterans in general.

"I feel very strongly about veterans because they have made it possible for me and my kids to be free," the 41-year-old Hagerstown resident said.

Four wreaths were laid at the Veterans Memorial at the park during the 45-minute ceremony.

Ron Hovis, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Korean War, read a poem about the ordinary becoming the extraordinary to protect freedom for everyone.

"For all your freedoms, thank a vet," he said.

Another reason Blair keeps coming back each year is to honor the memory of his best friend, Roger W. Bowser, who was just 18 when he lost his life in a June 21, 1945, kamikaze attack on their ship.

"This ceremony is for him," Blair said.

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