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Williamsport offers a 'Salute to Soldiers'

October 10, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Riding in classic cars, military vehicles and an assisted-living facility bus, more than 50 veterans and current service members were greeted by cheering crowds Saturday morning at Williamsport's first "Salute to Soldiers" parade on Conococheague Street.

The parade was introduced this year by Jim Jewell as part of the town's World War II Weekend, which also included a recognition ceremony for military members Saturday afternoon and a USO dance Saturday night.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Mason of the U.S. Army Forces Command served as the parade's grand marshal.

"This is what America is all about," Mason said after the parade. "This kind of level of support is so important."

Mason, whose father, World War II Army veteran Harold "Buck" Mason, was from the Williamsport area, said as he rode in the parade, he could feel the strength of the cheering crowd's support for its veterans and service members, and he thanked those supporters on behalf of the U.S. military.

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"The most powerful weapon any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine has is the support of the American people," Mason said.

Veterans said they enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the parade.

"It's great to see all the old veterans," said Jack Myers, 86, who served in World War II.

Myers said it is important to keep the country's military history alive and remind younger generations that "freedom is not free."

The parade also included performances by the Springfield Middle School Cougar Band, period re-enactors and the Hub City Lindy Hop dancers.

Three Williamsport-area Girl Scout troops -- a Daisy troop, Brownie troop, and Junior and Cadette troop -- participated by handing out small American flags and carrying the banner for the Quad-State Women Veterans group.

The experience tied in nicely with the girls' "Local Lore" badge, said Laurie Baker, the Junior and Cadette troop leader.

"I thought it was an honor to be with women and not men," said Cadette Girl Scout Amelia Baker, 11, of Sharpsburg. "I thought it was, like, different, because not many women are in the Army."

Later Saturday afternoon, the veterans were applauded again as they introduced themselves and were given commemorative ribbons.

At that ceremony, state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, thanked service members for their "valiant and selfless service," credited them for securing the freedom America enjoys today, and praised their families as "unsung heroes."

Julianna Albowicz, special assistant to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md.; Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II also spoke in appreciation of the veterans and thanked them for their service.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Washington County Commissioners, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Capt. Edward Chow Jr. sent letters of appreciation, coordinator Kim Bowers said.




If you go



What: Williamsport World War II Weekend

When: Continues Sunday with a World War II-style Sunday morning worship service at 10:30 a.m., World War II model airplane contest at 1 p.m., and Williamsport Community Band concert featuring Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Dell, a Williamsport resident, at 2 p.m.

Where: Springfield Farm, Williamsport

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