Rose Hill ceremony reflects on sacrifices


HAGERSTOWN -- Rose Hill Cemetery is an apt place for Memorial Day reflection.

Bill Divelbliss, executive vice president of the cemetery, said the grounds are the resting place for nearly 2,500 Confederate soldiers and for U.S. servicemen and women from seven other conflicts.

About 50 people gathered Saturday morning on lawn chairs and blankets to reflect on U.S. military history at the cemetery's Memorial Day event.

Fred Shinbur, chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission and the Joint Veterans Committee of Maryland, was the featured speaker.

"We think today of war and what it really means," Shinbur said. "We think of grieving parents and orphaned children. War is hunger and disease. It is the inhumanity of man. In war, man goes down to the depths and rises to the ultimate heights."


Shinbur encouraged those in attendance to be reverent of U.S. servicemen and women not only on Memorial Day, but every day of the year. He challenged them to teach young people about "the sacrifices that have been made to give us our freedoms" and to "assist the family of a lost or injured service member."

Following Shinbur's words, the Washington County AMVETS Post 10 color guard and firing squad performed a 21-gun salute, and three buglers from South Hagerstown High School played taps. Civil War re-enactors, who will host an encampment throughout the weekend, stood among the observers.

Rick Conrad, a bagpiper with the Hagerstown Fire Department Local 1605 Honor Guard, wore his fire department dress uniform along with a kilt. The crowd rose to its feet as he marched across the rolling green lawn playing haunting renditions of the "Marines' Hymn" and "Amazing Grace."

Sandy Flowers and her sister, Carole Mitchell, both of Hancock, listened reverently. Flowers said the two attended with Carole's husband, Stanley Mitchell, a member of the Marine Corps League's Bulldog Detachment.

"We come every year for the services," Sandy Flowers said. "It's just very patriotic to me. This is what Memorial Day is all about -- our servicemen."

Melva Rice of Sharpsburg relaxed on a blanket with her sons, Will, 10, and Briar, 7. Each of them waved small U.S. flags. Melva said she attends the event in part because the boys' grandfather served in the U.S. Navy and because Will is interested in history.

"I like sitting here and listening to all the soldiers that fought and lived and everything," Will Rice said. "It's fun to listen to speeches and hear about the wars and battles, the past and the future."

Event organizers dream of more people such as Will. Shinbur said he was disappointed by Saturday's attendance.

"As years go by, turnout is smaller and smaller and smaller," he said.

Divelbliss said he has observed "an unfortunate lack of interest" in Memorial Day observances.

"We advertise and promote it, but when it comes down to it, people find other things to do than to remember our fallen," he said.

Some people in attendance also were disappointed by the low turnout. Bob Barthlow, 61, of Hagerstown, served in the U.S. Army for three years and said he always tries to attend the event.

"It irritates me that these grounds are not totally packed with civilians. I wish people would take a few minutes just to show a little respect," Barthlow said. "If this doesn't move a person a little bit, something is really wrong."

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