Services Honor Fallen Heroes
The McConnellsburg High School Spartan band led by director Greg Strine kicked off the patriotic, but somber May 28 service, at Union Cemetery, playing for onlookers a variety of tunes, which were followed by opening remarks by George Cutchall, Bishop-Raker Post 655 Veterans of Foreign Wars commander. Cutchall graciously welcomed to the podium United States Army Col. Jeffrey D. Houston, who announced what an honor it was to be at this tribute service in hometown America.
“Small towns just like Mc- Connellsburg are the fertile grounds that grow the sons and daughters that always have been, and always will be those great heroes who defend our nation and the freedoms that we enjoy,” said Col. Houston, a Southern Baptist chaplain hailing from Van Buren, Mo. The colonel is also a combat veteran of Desert Shield/Storm and has completed three tours of duty in Iraq. He is currently attending the Army War College located in Carlisle, Pa.
“It is an honor to be in the place,” said Houston standing in the cemetery south of Mc- Connellsburg Borough. “This is sacred ground. This is where we lay our heroes to rest. Today, in this place, we recall the words of Abraham Lincoln when at Gettysburg he said, ‘...We cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.’”
Houston pointed out Memorial Day is set aside on an annual basis to honor those individuals who have not only heard “freedom’s call” but paid “freedom’s price” so others may enjoy “freedom’s reward.”
Houston stated, “ ... We seek to remember, for we know that if we forget the lessons of history ... the price of that forgetfulness is paid again in the blood of America’s sons and daughters.” Wishing to enlighten the crowd with a tale not likely to be found in any history book, the colonel shared a story regarding a letter penned by a Marine who died shortly after in battle in Afghanistan. The letter referenced a child who will live on because men left the security they enjoyed in their own homes.
Houston further noted he recently walked the battlefields of Gettysburg with his 14-year-old grandson. “I told him the story of what had happened there, of the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers and how that painful struggle would reshape a nation. My hope and prayer is that because he, and others like him, know the history, our national will not pay such a great price ever again,” he said.
“Today we enjoy parades and ceremonies, picnics and family celebrations, all to say thank you to the veterans who are our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members and our friends. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. Because of their service and sacrifice, we continue to enjoy freedom’s greatest reward. We can worship freely, speak openly and enjoy all of the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator,” said Houston, who closed out his speech with the fourth verse of the national anthem.
Houston’s address was followed by the the presentation of memorial wreaths and decoration of graves, a memorial prayer by chaplain Robert Snyder and the salute to departed comrades by the Fulton Honor Guard commanded by Capt. Marvin DeShong.
Many of the same crowd seen at the 10 a.m. ceremony at Union Cemetery could be found shortly afterwards at the McConnellsburg observance outside the county courthouse. Those in attendance were welcomed by Ted Hall. Again memorial wreaths were presented as planned by the American Legion, VFW Auxiliary, VFW and American Legion SAL and the American Legion Auxiliary. Flower bouquets used during the service were prepared by the auxiliaries of American Legion Post 561 and VFW Post 655.
Refreshments were offered at the conclusion of the ceremonies at VFW Post 655.