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U.S. accomplishments listed during Memorial Day ceremony in downtown Hagerstown

Richard Hembrock says country offers a message of hope to other countries

May 27, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • The crowd sings "God Bless America" during the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony Sunday at the memorial in front of the Washington County Courthouse in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

At times struggling to find words to explain it, a U.S. Armycolonel with 27 years of experience asked about 50 people gathered at a Memorial Day ceremony Sunday downtown to grasp some of the United States’ accomplishments.

It’s a country that rebuilt Germany after it destroyed it, said Richard Hembrock, who is also acting chaplain of Morris Frock Post 42 of the American Legion on Northern Avenue.

The U.S. also rebuilt England and Japan, and when disaster strikes anywhere across the globe, it is often the U.S. that rushes in with aid for those afflicted, Hembrock said.

“What a message of hope,” Hembrock said during a 2 p.m. ceremony in front of the Washington County Courthouse.

Like dignitaries and veterans in cities and towns across the country during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Hembrock and others paid tribute to veterans who made the supreme sacrifice in carrying out the nation’s military actions and the U.S. freedoms they helped secure.

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Hembrock said it is hard to appreciate the freedoms that exist in the United States until one goes to other countries ruled by despots where people live in extreme poverty.

“It’s amazing to come back and see the blessings of God. I can’t fully explain it. I’m not sure you can,” Hembrock said.

The ceremony is an annual service where about 25 veterans groups lay wreaths at a memorial to veterans of the two world wars, and the Korean and Vietnam wars in front of the courthouse.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, along with Hagerstown City Council members Martin E. Brubaker, Lewis C. Metzner and William M. Breichner, also attended the ceremony.

In addition to honoring veterans who died, Bruchey called on those present to remember military members still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Let’s pray to God we don’t have to add their names to any memorials,” Bruchey said.

North Hagerstown High School students Celine Galvan and Katie O’Bryan took turns reading the poem

“Freedom is not Free,” a 21-gun salute was offered and taps was played.

Hembrock said many people do not understand the meaning of Memorial Day and he asked those present to tell others about the traditions of honoring veterans on the day.

Hembrock recalled when he was a youngster that he decorated his bicycle for Memorial Day. Bicycle riders were secured a special place in a parade and given a flag to place on graves of veterans, he said.

Hembrock said one of his duties is going into public schools and teaching kids U.S. flag protocol. When he finishes his lesson, Hembrock said he always stresses to the students, “You are an American. You be proud of it.”

Morris Frock Post 42 of the American Legion is named for Morris Frock, a U.S. Marine who was the first Washington County resident killed in action during World War I. Frock was shy of turning 20 years old when he was killed.

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