SMITHSBURG — Chief Master Sgt. Roland Shambaugh of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard made his message loud and clear Wednesday night.
“Freedom’s not free,” said Shambaugh, a 29-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in both Gulf wars, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We take a lot for granted in this country .... We’ve got it so good here, but it’s been preserved through the blood and sacrifice of our service members.”
Shambaugh, a resident of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was the guest speaker at Smithsburg’s Memorial Day ceremony, attended by close to 100 people at Veterans Park along West Water Street.
During his address, Shambaugh highlighted numerous stories about brave men and women who served the United States throughout history, focusing on the sacrifices that they made to help create the world that Americans know today.
“I think it’s very important to honor the memory of everyone that paid the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s important to remember their families,” he said afterward.
Organized by the town’s Park Commission, the annual ceremony has been a staple in the Smithsburg community for about the past two decades, said veterans Jack Wenthe and Carlo Belella, members of the event’s committee along with Glenn Fishack.
Wenthe served as the master of ceremonies, repeating a quote he heard at the Purple Heart Convention in Ocean City, Md., about a week ago.
“Many gave their tomorrows for our today,” he said. “They gave their lives so we could be here and do what we’re doing today, which means a lot. We’ve got to keep their memory. They sacrificed a lot for us.”
After Shambaugh’s address, six wreaths were placed near the base of the flag poles and veteran memorial plaques in the park.
Shambaugh said it’s important to share the stories of those who gave everything for their country.
“Our World War II population is dwindling at a fast pace,” he said. “It’s important that we’re passing on the stories, and (their) legacies need to live on.”
Amvets Post 10 and the Marine Corps League served as the ceremony’s Color Guard, while the Smithsburg High School Band performed the “Star Spangled Banner.” Boy Scouts from Troop 62 in Chewsville, Md., helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
The ceremony concluded with a closing salute by the Color Guard, which fired several blank rounds into the air, and the playing of taps by a Smithsburg High band member.
Different from other area celebrations, Smithsburg’s event traditionally takes place on May 30, paying tribute to the first official Memorial Day on May 30, 1868, Belella said.
“We kind of stuck to that. That’s the way it’s always been,” he said. “People realize what we’re actually celebrating — the lives of those who gave so much for us.”