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People fighting to defend country carry hometown memories

May 29, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In towns big and small across America on Memorial Day, people gathered for parades and ceremonies to honor those who died serving in the nation's wars, but the people protecting the country probably are thinking about the homes and families they left behind.

"This is not a day for car races or special sales or merely another three-day holiday, but a day set aside to remember the heroic sacrifices of men and women who fought to preserve our freedoms," Franklin County Sheriff Robert Wollyung told the audience of several hundred veterans and spectators at Memorial Square. "Our connection with them is through our own memory of events and places."

"Is there a member of our military serving in a distant land right now who clutches a letter from home that bears the memory of this place in time?" asked Wollyung, a U.S. Navy veteran. "The fondest memory that I have from my short military service were the letters that arrived aboard our carrier in the South Pacific. Half a world away, the name of my street and town on the return line brought memories flooding to my mind."

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Over the generations, many veterans have gone overseas carrying with them memories of their hometown, memories "that tie all generations together in remembering who we are as a people and to who we need give thanks," Wollyung said.

"One other thing that binds us together is a piece of music ... the sound that binds us together is the sound of a bugle playing taps," he said.

Along the parade route were a number of older soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. Men such as 87-year-old John Bayer, who got to see Iceland, England, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Czechoslovakia courtesy of Uncle Sam during World War II.

"It brings back a lot of memories," Bayer said when asked what Memorial Day means to him.

Roy Snider said he was drafted in 1944, but failed the physical. The Army was less selective 10 years later when it drafted him again, he said. Monday, he was there to see his granddaughter, Megan, in the parade.

Terry Ward served in the Air Force in the 1960s. He was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base when John F. Kennedy's body was returned from Dallas to Washington, D.C. Three generations of his family watched the parade.

"We almost always come," Ward said.

Under leaden skies, the crowd gathered along the parade route. A Cub Scout handed flags to spectators, and umbrellas sprouted along Lincoln Way East as a brief shower passed over the town as veterans' organizations and marching bands formed a semicircle around the Memorial Square fountain.

Following the ceremony, flowers were dropped into Conococheague Creek in memory of those who lost their lives at sea.

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