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Speaker says meaning of Memorial day most important

May 30, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Many towns have laid claim to being the birthplace of what was once known as Decoration Day, including Boalsburg, Pa., but where the tradition started is less important than remembering the meaning of Memorial Day, Maj. Michael Zahuranic told those gathered around Memorial Square Monday morning.

A recent survey indicated only 28 percent of Americans know that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the nation's wars, Zahuranic, the deputy director of contracting at Letterkenny Army Depot, told the hundreds who attended Monday morning's parade. Many, he said, confuse the holiday with Veterans Day.

"It's more than just another day off," said Zahuranic, the guest speaker at the service. In an age of unsurpassed prosperity, many people have become "more concerned with 'American Idol' than American ideals," he said.

Nearly 1.2 million Americans have died in wars since the Revolutionary War, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics. Zahuranic said people should not think of casualties in "terms of thousands ... but think in terms of one."

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For those families who have lost a loved one in war, the memory of a uniformed officer and chaplain approaching their front door is one that will not fade with time, he said.

Zahuranic reminded those attending that the nation remains at war with more than 2,300 men and women killed in Iraq and another 600 in Afghanistan.

"Some day, the Global War on Terror will end," but it will not be the last time an American soldier fights and dies for his country, he said.

Wreaths were laid at the veterans memorial at the Chambersburg YMCA, the "Doughboy" monument to World War I veterans and the Vietnam War memorial in front of the Franklin County Courthouse, said Parade Marshal Gary Stopyra, the incoming commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 78. Following the ceremony on the square, the presidents of the auxiliaries of the various veterans organizations in the Chambersburg area dropped fresh cut flowers into the Conococheague Creek in honor of those who gave their lives at sea, what Stopyra called the "vast battlefield that has no markers."

Among the scores of veterans assembled on the square was John Gale, whose empty right sleeve was a reminder of his service. Gale, 81, said he lost his arm as a Marine on Saipan in 1945 when the Japanese rolled a land mine "right into my foxhole."

The other two men in the foxhole also were wounded, one losing an arm, a leg and an eye, Gale said.

"I'm very fortunate to be alive," Gale said.

Zahuranic asked those on the square to take another moment during the day to honor those who died in military service, the National Moment of Remembrance, at 3 p.m. each Memorial Day.

A parade preceded the service in Chambersburg. Parades and services were the order of the day in several other Franklin County, Pa., communities, including Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg and St. Thomas.

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