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Veteran explains holiday contrasts at Martinsburg ceremony

May 31, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- It was brief, poignant and it explained the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

In his brief, but effective keynote address, Harry M. Siegel of Falling Waters, W.Va., a disabled Vietnam War veteran, told the audience of about 100 at War Memorial Park that there is a "huge difference" between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Veterans Day honors all still living who served or are serving in the military. First called Armistice Day for the armistice that ended WWI, it was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all veterans.

Siegel said Memorial Day simply honors the 1 million men and women who died in all wars beginning with the Revolution. It started as Decoration Day in New York in 1868 to honor the dead in both sides of the Civil War.

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The South held out, honoring only its own Confederate dead, until after World War I, Siegel said.

An Annapolis graduate, Siegel founded HMS Technologies Inc., a certified service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that provides information technology to government and private clients.

Siegel and his wife, Wendy, run Maralie Farm, an animal rescue farm and riding program for handicapped and underprivileged children.

Memorial Day "has a very different meaning for those of us who served," he said. For those who lost loved ones in battle, "I share your pain," he said. For those who enjoy the freedom paid for by those who made the ultimate sacrifice, "I share the pride in our nation."

A special moment in Monday's short ceremony was the placing of the wreath at the granite memorials honoring Berkeley County residents lost in wars by Roxanne Rupenthal, an American Gold Star Mother. Her son, Staff Sgt. Stephen A. Seale, was killed in combat in Iraq on Aug. 6, 2006.

Seven local veterans organizations participated in the service, which began at 10 a.m.

Before the Memorial Day services, members of the Martinsburg Noon Rotary Club served more than 700 free Pancake for Polio breakfasts and took in more than $8,000 in donations, club President John Reisenweber reported. All food for the meal was donated, he said.

The breakfast was part of the local club's effort to meet Rotary International's goal of raising $200 million over the next three years to fight polio around the world.

Conquered in the United States in the 1950s, polio is still prevalent in many poor countries, Reisenweber said.

If the international Rotarians raise $200 million, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to kick in $350 million to add to Rotary's international anti-polio effort, Reisenweber said.

Breakfast patrons were the first to eat on tables under the new main pavilion in Memorial Park. It replaced one that was 60 years old and was paid for by Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation.

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