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Emergency workers honored at Pa. service

May 29, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - A Memorial Day service Sunday at the Church of the Transfiguration not only paid tribute to members of the armed services, but also emergency workers including firefighters and paramedics.

"On 9/11, they took a hit," the Rev. Barton Berry said. "I think it changed Memorial Day for all of us,"

He displayed police, fire and soldier helmets at the front of the church. Behind them were the American, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine, Air Force and POW/MIA flags, all flanked by candles.

The Right Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, talked about how the most destructive acts and moments actually can unite.

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Baxter, who was preaching at the National Cathedral on Sept. 11, said he was proud of the response to tragedy.

"America came together and remembered that we are a people. ... We are a nation of people," Baxter said, explaining that race, social status and other labels did not matter.

A former Army combat medic, Baxter also explained how people unite when serving together in war.

The argument that not supporting the war is equivalent to not supporting the troops is false, Baxter said.

While serving in Vietnam, "I'm glad there was someone at home to question a job that wore on and on," Baxter said. "As Americans, we have the right to call for accountability and ask questions."

After the church service, Baxter said the right to question was his main message for the 100 people who filled the pews.

"There is not a patriotic contradiction between supporting our troops and asking hard questions of our government. ... That is as much of our patriotic duty and right as serving in combat," he said.

The service was the first held diocesewide to mark Memorial Day. Baxter hopes to hold more in coming years in the 71 parishes in the diocese.

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