Picnic, concert honors veterans

'This shows how patriotic and supportive people are'

August 27, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Waynesboro, Pa., residents Kim Shank, left, and her son, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Shank, 22, right, sit during a picnic Saturday afternoon at Clear Spring Park. Matthew is a 2007 Heritage Academy graduate. He is recovering from injuries he sustained in Afghanistan when the truck he was traveling in was blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED).
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

CLEAR SPRING — Last year, David Sword of Clear Spring felt compelled to do something to honor U.S. veterans. He rallied community support, and the eventual result was a veterans memorial at Clear Spring Park.

This year, area veterans asked Sword, 47, how he planned to follow up.

Sword's answer came in the form of a gathering of about 250 people Saturday afternoon, despite the rainy weather, for a picnic and concert honoring veterans.

The celebration began outside of Clear Spring Park. Firetrucks and military jeeps escorted a bus carrying soldiers from Fort Belvoir, Va., who had been invited to the event through the Wounded Warrior Project. U.S. flags lined the park entrance and attendees cheered the soldiers as they arrived.

Though he never has served in the military himself, Sword said his late uncles served in World War II.

"All their stories made me appreciate what vets have done for me," he said. "I get to live the American dream and I haven't done anything. I just get up and go to work every day."

Lance Cpl. Matthew Shank, 22, of Waynesboro, Pa., is stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Shank, who said he was in Waynesboro for the weekend because Lejeune had "basically shut down" in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, attended the Clear Spring event.

"I think this is awesome that (Sword) just took charge and did this," Shank said. "The memorial they put up last year is pretty cool, and everyone here today has been really nice. They'd pretty much do anything for you."

This past June while deployed to Afghanistan, Shank sustained injuries including five fractures in his back when the truck he was traveling in was blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED). Shank remains on limited duty and wears a back brace as he continues his recovery.

His mother, Kim Shank, said the Clear Spring event illustrated "how much people care and want to help."

"You don't hear a lot in the media about how Americans really feel about what's going on," she said. "This shows how patriotic and supportive people are."

Sword estimated that around 40 veterans attended the event. Though 33 soldiers and family members from Fort Belvoir were expected to attend, only six ultimately made the trek from Virginia to Clear Spring. Sword attributed the low attendance to anxieties related to Hurricane Irene.

Master Sgt. Samuel Porter, who was injured while serving in Afghanistan during 2010, made the trip with his wife and children.

"This is very humbling," Porter said. "I did what I did because I enjoy serving my country and serving people. Seeing a community come out like this to say 'thank you' is just overwhelming and very humbling."

Sgt. 1st Class Willie Brown of Fort Belvoir said he has served in the military for 32 years.

"I'll go back and let the other warriors know that there are people out there who are thankful, who want to show their appreciation for their service," Brown said.

An outdoor concert had been planned following the picnic. Because of rain, it was moved indoors to Hilltop Christian Fellowship not far from the park.

Sword said Clear Spring Sons of the American Legion Post 222 and the town of Clear Spring provided support for the event.

"Our goal is to thank the veterans and the active guys," Sword said. "I think the veterans build patriotism in our community and remind everybody that this is how America used to be — small town. I've been telling everybody, 'Small town America is still alive.'"

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