Memorial Day Events Slated for May 23 in New Bethlehem

flagNEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Vowing that “we who survived will never forget those who did not,” leaders of the local Walter W. Craig Post 354 of the American Legion announced this week they will pay tribute to their departed comrades with a parade and program scheduled for this Saturday.

Ray Ishman, a member of the committee planning for the events, noted that the coming Memorial Day weekend has increasing been turned into an unofficial start of summer, a time of picnics and recreation, “with little thought seemingly given to the very purpose of the holiday. This is not a social event, it is not just another long weekend, or just a time to focus on fun times without any thought about the very high price that has been paid in blood and treasure to give us the freedoms we so cherish.”

He added, “Before we look forward to a summer of relaxing and all that entails, we need to look back and remember the price that has been paid,” observing that during the 20th Century alone more than 625,000 Americans serving in uniforms have died, “and probably all too often those enjoying those freedoms today do little reflecting on those for whom the bell tolled while fulfilling their oaths to the United States.”

This Saturday’s events, beginning with a parade up Broad Street at 10:00 a.m., will be the Legion’s efforts to focus attention on the very reason for the existence of the holiday, the spokesman said.

Among the units scheduled to participate in the parade will be veterans, representatives of the American Legion Auxiliary, the Redbank Valley High School marching band under the direction of Sarah Williams, fire trucks from the New Bethlehem, Distant and Hawthorn volunteer companies, and other participants.

The annual program in Gumtown Park is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m., with Legion members being joined in the memorial tribute by scouting units, the school band, and others. In the event of inclement weather, the program will be held at the First Baptist Church, located at the corner of Broad and Lafayette streets.

The keynote address is scheduled to be delivered by Robert P. Fink, commander of the local Legion post.

During the program, area veterans who died during the various periods of hostilities in which the United States was involved will be remembered by name, as will members of the sponsoring Legion post who have died since Memorial Day 2014.

A brief summary will attest to the disproportionately high number of men from northern Armstrong County and southern Clarion County who died during the Civil War after their regiment—the 103rd Pennsylvania Volunteers—was captured in a battle in North Carolina and the men were incarcerated at the infamous Andersonville Prison in that state.

Many of those men died while prisoners of war, and many more subsequently died of disease after their release.

Promoters of the events noted that 2015 has special significance because Memorial Day observances came into being as an outgrown of the Civil War, which is in the fourth and final year of having its 150th anniversary being marked.

Additionally, it was 70 years ago this year that World War II ended. Rapidly declining numbers of men and women who served in that latter war remain with us today, Ishman observed. Tens of thousands of those who served as part of the “Greatest Generation” died on battlefields around the globe during the four years of that war.

“We invite the entire community to join with us in paying tribute to those who died serving our country around the globe since the birth of this nation. And we emphasize that this is a time of somber reflection, a time to pay homage to those who died to keep us free. We don’t ‘celebrate’ Memorial Day and what it represents, but rather we humbly and with honor observe the holiday. We hope others who share the same sentiments will join is in this solemn tribute,” the spokesman concluded.

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