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For all who served

November 12, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - With membership dwindling, veterans' groups should recruit other people who serve and protect in various ways, former Washington County Commissioner Ronald Bowers said Thursday.

"We must explore the realm of possibility of including others who take significant part in continuing to secure our freedoms and protect us from terrorism into our organizations," Bowers said.

He was the main speaker at the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County's annual Veterans Day ceremony at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park in Halfway.

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"Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, firefighters, EMTs, civilian defense department officials and the Department of Homeland Security work diligently to ensure our safety," Bowers continued. "They risk life and limb to sustain those things we cherish so deeply as written in the Declaration of Independence, 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"

During a brief interview afterward, Bowers, who retired from the U.S. Army Reserves, said about his proposal, "They are veterans in a different sense."

Bowers' speech touched on the challenge of being modern and relevant, particularly with war creating new veterans.

"We must mobilize and light the torches of our younger veteran generations," he said.

Veterans' groups should consider merging "to optimize membership, increase productivity and effectively serve the veterans who have given so much to this great nation," he said.

Working toward that goal takes more than "barroom banter or quick-to-anger dialogue," he said.

Patty Wibberley of Williamsport later recited a poem about difficult times.

"Let faith, hope and love abide with us," she read. "May we open our hearts, finding there the discipline/To avoid stridency/Which deepens not understanding/But widens the chasms between us."

"May we always acknowledge and honor the humanity/Of those with whom we disagree," the final stanza said. "May we remember what religion is: A binding together of that which has been sundered. For in this remembering, we lay wide the possibilities/For reconciliation and healing."

Wibberley's son Craig was one of 17 U.S. Navy sailors killed in 2000 when terrorists supposedly connected to Osama bin Laden bombed the USS Cole in a Yemeni port.

Wibberley said Kate Brown, whose son Patrick Roy also was killed in the bombing, sent her the poem. She didn't know its author.

During the ceremony, the Joint Veterans Council unveiled a new memorial for two Washington County Medal of Honor winners.

John W. Wagner, who served with the 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, lived in Clear Spring.

Seth Lathrop Weld, who served with the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War, lived in Sandy Hook.

The Joint Veterans Council had the memorial built once it knew more about Wagner and Weld, Vice President Tony Pruchniewski said.

In July 2003, The Herald-Mail wrote about historian Donald Brown of Boonsboro's extensive research that revealed details of the Medal of Honor winners' lives.

"We should know them and we should honor them," Brown said at the time.

Looking at the two name plaques on the pyramid-shaped stone memorial on Thursday, Pruchniewski said, "Unfortunately, (it) has room for a lot more."

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