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Waynesboro man remembers big brother on Memorial Day

May 27, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Hundreds of people filtered into Memorial Park on Monday to remember fallen soldiers.

For Dennis Gift, that meant honoring his big brother.

It was a solemn day for Gift as he spent his first Memorial Day without his older brother, Leroy, who died three months ago.

"No matter how long you prepare for death, it's still hard," said Dennis Gift, 61. "He was my big brother."

Last year, Dennis Gift could honor Leroy on Veterans Day. Since he died Feb. 25, Dennis now remembers him on Memorial Day as well.

Leroy Gift, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, was 83 when he died.

"Physically, it's not that different," said Dennis Gift, of Waynesboro. "Emotionally, yes, it is."

Dennis Gift observed the Memorial Day parade led by the Wayne Band and listened as state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York, addressed the crowd gathered thereafter at Memorial Park.

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"Since (Leroy) is gone," Dennis Gift said, "this day is especially special."

The annual parade ran from Main Street to Memorial Park on Broad Street. The Wayne Band played patriotic music and the national anthem, a moment of remembrance followed and Waynesboro Area Senior High School senior Brittany Koll delivered the Gettysburg Address.

VFW Post 695 Commander Warren Bickford then introduced Punt, who spoke for about 15 minutes.

"We observe what may be America's most solemn holiday," Punt said. "Memorial Day is not a celebration of war. It is a triumph of human spirit. We honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

He almost certainly spoke for the last time as a senator on Memorial Day.

"I'm glad to do it in my hometown of Waynesboro," said Punt, who did not seek re-election this year.

Waynesboro mayor Richard Starliper followed Punt.

"This is a day of mixed emotions," Starliper said. "I don't know if it's possible to grasp what (Memorial Day) means."

American Legion Post 15 Commander Robert Rowe read a roll call of the deceased from Waynesboro before the Wayne Band commenced once again as spectators, some with teary eyes, slowly began to filter out of the park.

"It's like (Punt) said. It's about people that gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Sara LaRoche, who teaches English as a second language in Waynesboro Area School District. "This is such an important holiday."

About 50 groups participated in the parade, which started at the intersection of C.V. Avenue and West Main Street. The parade started at 9 a.m. and ended at Memorial Park about an hour later.

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