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Veterans honored with wreath-laying at Martinsburg's 'doughboy memorial'

November 12, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Ninety years after the formal end to World War I -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 -- the sacrifice by all of America's veterans was honored Tuesday morning in Martinsburg at a wreath-laying ceremony at the community's "doughboy memorial."

"... In just over one year, (we) suffered over 50,000 combat deaths and over 200,000 wounded" in World War I, former U.S. Rep. David O'Brien Martin, D-N.Y., recounted for a crowd of more than 50 people who withstood temperatures in the 30s to attend the observance in the 300 block of West King Street.

Of those who returned alive from WWI, many were poisoned by gas warfare "and never would breathe a comfortable breath again," said Martin, who moved to Berkeley County in 2006.

"I'm old enough to have known many of (them)," said Martin, 64, who went on to note the service of those in the Revolutionary War, American Civil War and subsequent conflicts up to the present global war on terror.

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Martin's comments were followed by the placing of wreaths by several veterans organizations and other groups that participated in the ceremony.

A seven-member team of the Veterans Combined Honor Guard of Martinsburg then fired three volleys each and taps was sounded on a single trumpet.

"This area of West Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle, suffered during the Civil War greatly, both in casualties and anxiety, the memory of neither of which passes quickly," Martin said.

Martin later recalled his father and grandfather's military service, along with his own stint in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1960s, which he said was a "tremendous experience and lifelong memory of duty faithfully performed."

After serving four years in the New York State Assembly, Martin was elected to Congress in 1981, representing an area of upstate New York until January 1993.

Martin chose to end his speech by quoting the end of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

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