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"Honor their memory"

May 31, 2004|By DON AINES

ROUZERVILLE, Pa. - For the past two decades, John E.N. Blair has been lining up military speakers for the annual community Memorial Day service at Harbaugh Reformed Church.

Sunday, the retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel took his turn at the pulpit.

"I didn't have to wonder where I was going to be on the 29th of May," Blair said of his boyhood years. "We were here with buckets of flowers to decorate the graves" the night before Memorial Day.

Blair recalled his grandmother, Mary Hovis Naugle, telling him that in the early years of the 20th century, people in Rouzerville gathered "to watch a parade of veterans and other groups from local schools and churches before walking 11/2 miles to the Harbaugh Cemetery to decorate the graves of family members who served in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and, later, World War I."

The president of the Harbaugh Cemetery Association, Blair helped revive the traditional community service at the historic church in 1984.

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The list of about 200 veterans buried here now includes those who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Blair said. The church was established in 1845, he said.

At least two veterans are honored here only in spirit.

Marine Corps Pfc. Paul F. McCleaf has a headstone here, but his body never was recovered after the plane he was in was shot down over Rabaul on March 5, 1944.

"He and many others who made the ultimate sacrifice for world freedom now stand in God's army while we assemble here today to honor their memory," Blair said.

Elwood B. Bumbaugh was buried at sea after the aircraft carrier USS Franklin was hit by a kamikaze plane on March 19, 1945. There is an empty casket at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, where he was symbolically buried and his name is carved into a family headstone at the church.

Among the honored dead whose graves are decorated with small flags is Paul R. Smith Jr., who was killed in Vietnam on March 6, 1967, and is buried next to his father, a World War II veteran.

Buried here is Harvey Fritz, who served in World War I and Clarence O. Barkdoll, who fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and lived another 54 years. John H. Martin served with Co. G of the 17th Pennsylvania and is one of about 10 Civil War veterans buried here.

Blair asked those attending to pray that God give the nation's political and military leaders the wisdom to bring the war in Iraq to a quick and successful end. Fourteen other veterans were among the 40 or so people at the service.

Among them was the Rev. Robert F. Bonner, 81, pastor of the Pen Mar United Brethren Church in Cascade. He said he served as a Navy Seabee in the South Pacific during World War II.

Blair's father, Earl, 87, served as a radioman second class aboard LST 284, landing tanks and troops on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and later on Okinawa.

LST stands for landing ship, tank, but Earl Blair joked that the seamen who served aboard them said the letters stood for "Large, slow target," and "Last Ship to Tokyo."

Saturday, he attended a memorial service in Gettysburg, Pa., held as the World War II memorial was being dedicated in Washington, D.C.

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