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Memorial honors Greencastle's fallen soldiers

November 12, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

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GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- It is one memorial etched with 119 names of men from 10 wars who died for one cause. But as it stood silent in the cold on Veterans Day, it said the two words that hundreds of people blocking traffic on Washington Street in Greencastle could not say enough.

Thank you.

In every war since America fought for independence, the sons and daughters of Greencastle have answered Uncle Sam's call to arms. Many returned home from battle to parades and honor, some to riots and despair. Others fell in the green fields of France, the woods of Pennsylvania, the sands of the Middle East.

No other state has given so many of its own to the cause of war, said Edwin Bearss, chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service.

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In 2006, former Antrim Township Supervisor Ben Thomas sought a way to honor Greencastle's fallen soldiers in a way fitting for the families gathered to dedicate the memorial on Nov. 11.

Duane Schroyer, co-chairman of the Greencastle-Antrim Veterans Memorial Committee, said Thomas was the initiator, the instigator and the driving force behind making the memorial a reality.

While the committee knew of dozens of names that belonged on the memorial, many had, until recently, been forgotten, Schroyer said.

With the help of historian Dave Richards, the committee learned the names of 119 men who served, from Ezekial Downey and William Sterrit, who took up arms against the British, to Omar D. Witmer Jr. and Thomas R. Cook Jr., who went to the humid jungles of Vietnam.

The families of the community have suffered greatly, but also proudly since the French and Indian War brought war to their doorstep, Bearss said as he recounted Greencastle's involvement in each American war.

"In what is now Franklin County, blood will be shed as French partisans and their Indian allies carry war into the area here," he said.

Despite the number of men lost to war, Greencastle had played its part in obtaining and sustaining freedom, said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin.

"When we change careers or move to a different area, when we get news from a free press, when we express our thoughts and opinions on the issues of the day or when we elect representatives who will lead our state and nation," Punt said that's when the community can remember the sacrifices of those named on the memorial.

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