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At Smithsburg ceremony, area veterans recall the past

November 13, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG - They were there, at Smithsburg's Veterans Park, and then they weren't.

That is, their bodies were standing under the tent and their hands were saluting and they saw the red, white and blue wreaths being placed and heard the familiar haunting notes of taps - but in their memories, many of the town's veterans were also someplace long ago and far away.

"You have to have been there to understand what it's about," said Tom Law, 70, of Smithsburg, who served in the Navy from 1956 to 1960. "Thirty years ago, everything was different."

Even the military was different, agreed Charles "Bud" Lucassen, 78, of Smithsburg, who was awarded a commendation package at Monday's ceremony for his service in the Army during the Korean War.

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As Lucassen and Law reminisced about the demanding training and strict discipline of the U.S. military of old, Nick Shillinger, a representative of Freedom Team Salute, the group that recognized Lucassen, chimed in.

"It used to be 'Yes, sir' or 'No, sir,'" Shillinger said. "Now it's 'Why?'"

That's why ceremonies like the one in front of Smithsburg's Veterans Park memorial Monday are so important, Law said.

"Today's youth culture doesn't have a clue about what we did," he said.

Carlo Belella, 75, of Smithsburg, disagreed that the military has gotten more lenient.

"The military today is the best trained, best equipped and least selfish," Belella said. "They're all volunteers, just as many were in my time."

But that doesn't mean Belella's years in the Air Force were easy.

"I spent half of my 23 years away from my family in places not very pleasant, from the deserts of Africa to the jungles of Panama to the frozen north of Greenland and Labrador," Belella said.

At Monday's ceremony, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Fred Shinbur said there were more than 460,000 veterans in Maryland, more than 13,000 of whom call Washington County home.

And current military servicemen and women are making sacrifices every day. About 90 Marylanders have died in the war on terrorism, Shinbur said.

No matter what changes time brings, Belella said he thought there would always be a need to recognize veterans.

"There will always be service people and there will always be those who sacrifice it all for all of us," he said.

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