Veterans remember their fallen comrades

May 25, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

'Two of my best friends never made it back. Not a day goes by when I don't think of them.'

Rusty Baker

HAGERSTOWN - It would be nice to think that the horrors of war fade with time.

But for many soldiers, the war never is completely over.

What they've seen, what they've experienced become a painful part of their biographies.

It was the 1960s, and Rusty Baker was fresh out of high school when he and his friends were drafted.

Raised in Maugansville, "we were a tight-knit community," he said. "Everybody knew everybody."

He remembers traveling with some of his neighbors to Washington, D.C., to take their physicals.

Soon afterward, Baker went into the Army National Guard, while many of his friends headed to Vietnam.

Some didn't come home.


"It's something that has stayed with me all these years," he said. "Two of my best friends never made it back. Not a day goes by when I don't think of them."

Saturday morning, Baker was in uniform again, honoring their memory along with about 50 other people.

As captain of the National Honor Guard Champions of AMVETS Post 10, he and fellow members participated in a Memorial Day weekend ceremony at Rose Hill Cemetery.

"I will never forget my friends," he said. "It wasn't their choice, but they went to Vietnam, they fought and they died. It saddens me that they and others didn't get the recognition they deserved. That's why I'm here today. And that's why I'll be here next year and the year after - until I can't walk."

An annual event, the ceremony is a way of saluting the men and women who died for their country, said William Divelbiss, executive vice president of Rose Hill Cemetery.

"Memorial Day is not about the pool opening. It's not about going shopping and buying stuff on sale. It's about remembering our veterans," he said.

Guest speaker for the event was Fred L. Shinbur, chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission.

"We're here to pause, reflect and honor those who lost their lives defending this great country of ours," he said. "The eloquence of words can't match the sacrifice of those who served."

From the Revolutionary War to the war on global terror, Shinbur said there always have been individuals willing to fight, and in many cases die, to keep this country free.

"Memorial Day is a sacred day of remembrance to all those who have given their lives during wartime," he said.

Shinbur said serving in the armed forces always has been a noble cause and the American soldier always has been the defender of liberty and democracy.

He encouraged those in attendance to participate in the national Moment of Remembrance on Monday at 3 p.m. A resolution passed by Congress, the observance is intended to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought for the United States.

"Slow our pace on Memorial Day and honor those who have paid for our freedom with their lives," Shinbur said.

Saturday's ceremony also included a rifle and cannon salute and the playing of taps.

As part of the observance, Rose Hill hosted Civil War re-enactors, who pitched tents near the Washington Confederate Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 2,000 men who fought at the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Gettysburg and Hagerstown.

Throughout the day, the re-enactors offered an interpretation of the Civil War through a variety of demonstrations and stories. They will remain at the cemetery through this afternoon.


At 3 p.m. Monday, there will be a national Moment of Remembrance. The observance, passed by Congress, is intended to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought for the United States.

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