MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — "Every mountain between our two coasts, every island over which an American flag flies, every acre of farmland, every tree, every lake, every stream or field was paid for by a veteran. Let us never forget those who paid the price."
Those words were part of the keynote speech given at Monday's Memorial Day program at War Memorial Park by Ann Brown, director of the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.
The rest of the ceremony was the somber Memorial Day ritual — the national anthem, presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, wreath-laying and the rifle salute.
But hearing Brown's speech was like turning the pages of an American history book.
Brown noted that the nation's flag has been carried from the first days of America's struggle for independence, from famous campaigns to little-known skirmishes.
It was at Lexington and with John Paul Jones when he declared that he had "not yet begun to fight. It was washed in the blood of fathers, sons and brothers at Antietam and Gettysburg. The flag heralded the expeditionary forces entering the War to End All Wars and served to comfort and inspire a nation shocked at Pearl Harbor," Brown said.
It was on the beaches of Normandy and the volcanic peak on Iwo Jima, she continued.
"The flag wintered with our troops on frozen and nameless Korean hills and it stood like a beacon far from home during the siege of Khe Sanh."
More recently, it witnessed the liberation of Kuwait and still serves in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.
"The flag is the shroud for those who give their last full measure in freedom's defense," Brown told the crowd of more than 100 who turned out for the Memorial Day program hosted by VFW Post 896 and American Legion Post 14.
The program was preceded by the 148-member Martinsburg Rotary Club's annual free breakfast. The event promised to raise more than $11,000 from the 600-plus patrons whose average donations ranged from $5 to $20, according to Chairman Mike Hornby. One benefactor donated $1,000, he said.
The proceeds go toward Rotary International's match of a $255 million pledge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight polio, Hornby said.
"Our share is $8,000 a year for three years. We're in the second year, and we already have $5,700 for the year," he said.
Anything collected over the $8,000 will go to Martinsburg/Berkeley County Parks and Recreation and the Eastern Panhandle Boys and Girls Club, he said.
Steve Catlett, parks and recreation executive director, said both municipal pools — Lambert on Woodbury Avenue and the pool at War Memorial Park — opened Saturday.
"We should be slammed today with 95 degrees forecasted," he said.
Catlett was appointed director in 1976 as the agency's only paid employee. It had a budget then of $40,000, he said.
"Today we have a budget of $2.1 million and 13 full-time employees, plus about 150 hired seasonally," he said. "We raise about 70 percent of our budget through fees, rentals donations and grants."