Salute to those who served

Crowds turn out to honor veterans

Crowds turn out to honor veterans

November 12, 2004|by DON AINES

TRI-STATE - As Marines and soldiers were battling through the streets of Fallujah half a world away, hundreds of people gathered around Memorial Square in Chambersburg, Pa., on Thursday to honor those who have served and are serving in the armed forces of the United States.

Keirston Kauffman, 12, and Quentin Bitner, 10, of Mont Alto, Pa., stood along the parade route, dwarfed by the large American flags they carried.

"It's to honor our great-grandpa in World War II and the veterans," Keirston said. In other parts of the world, people live in fear of car bombs and being ambushed in the streets by gunmen, she said.


"Because of the veterans, you don't have to worry about that here in America," she said.

"I like to honor them so they can see my flag," Quentin said.

After the parade, Keirston and Quentin were going to visit their great-grandfather, 83-year-old Gerald Porter of Shippensburg, Pa., said their grandfather, Chuck Porter of Chambersburg. Gerald Porter was a gunner in the Army Air Corps, who flew from bases in North Africa on bombing missions into Europe, his son said.

"I think it's our patriotic duty ... to give thanks to these fellows for what they've done to keep us safe," said Wesley Williams of New Franklin, Pa.

"Especially in these times," his wife, Leah, said.

Bob Harris, director of the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs, said the men and women who have served in the armed forces protect not only the nation's security, but the people's rights.

"As we just demonstrated to the world, Americans choose the men and women who represent them," said Harris. "For the right to speak out, to voice our opinions and to cast our ballots, we thank our veterans who, too often, cast their ballots for our freedom in their blood."

Harris said 48 million Americans have worn their nation's uniform, nearly 25 million of whom are alive today. Many veterans were among those at the ceremony on the square, including James Hammond, who survived the Bataan Death March in World War II, and Vernon "Bucky" Weller, who spent five months as a prisoner of war after being captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.

"It means freedom. Freedom and hope, and that's what the kids have got to look at today," Weller said of the ceremony.

Shortly after he was liberated in April 1945, Weller was greeted by Gen. George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army.

"He stuck a cigar in my mouth. I said, 'I don't smoke, general,'" Weller recalled telling Patton.

"You're going to smoke this one," Patton told him.

Other veterans services were held throughout the region:


About 100 people participated in a Veterans Day ceremony at the chapel at Letterkenny Army Depot that included the singing of popular hymns, prayers and remarks by a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who spoke about the sacrifices made by veterans in all America's wars.

Throughout America's history, U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines, fighting in battles around the world, "withstood hellish fire to secure a foothold for liberty and democracy," said Lt. Col. William C. Gibson.

Gibson, a 29-year Army veteran, is a student at the U.S. Army War College. He is scheduled to take command of a unit in Korea next year.

Quoting Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gibson said, "They asked nothing from these countries in return - except for a little land to bury their dead."

Warriors past, present and future are guided by the core values of loyalty, duty, self-respect and courage, he said. "They are the heroes on freedom's frontier."

The price of freedom is never cheap, he said. The nation owes a tremendous debt to veterans who have served, are serving now and who will serve in the future, he said.

Emcee for the nearly hour-long ceremony was the Rev. Jeffrey Diller of Zion Reformed Church in Chambersburg, Pa. The ceremony was sponsored by the 40-plus member churches of United Churches of the Chambersburg Area.

Col. William A. Guinn, commander of Letterkenny Army Depot, said it was fitting to take this day to think about veterans in the past who sacrificed so much and asked for so little.

Members of Chambersburg Post 1599 VFW Color Guard participated in the ceremony. The Letterkenny ceremony was one of four Veterans Day events at which the color guard officiated Thursday.

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

A ceremony dedicated to Mark Bannister Hazlett, a U.S. Army veteran and graduate of Shepherd University, drew approximately 100 people on the campus of Shepherd University Thursday morning to pay tribute to veterans.

Hazlett was active on campus and helped start a veterans organization at the school, said Mary Beth Sibert, Shepherd's Veterans Advisor.

Hazlett was later diagnosed with cancer and died last Friday, Sibert said.

Ron Bell, who oversees a program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Martinsburg, W.Va., that helps veterans with complications such as post-traumatic stress disorder, spoke at the ceremony.

West Virginia has the highest percentage of veterans of any state and has the highest ratio of combat veterans of any state, Bell said.

Staff writers Dave McMillion and Richard F. Belisle contributed to this story.

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