The need to show gratitude and respect to those who gave the full measure of themselves motivated scores of people throughout the River Valley to pay tribute to America's military veterans on Memorial Day.
People of all ages turned out for the numerous parades and solemn ceremonies held in the area, including those in East Liverpool, Wellsville and Chester.
Attendance was strong for the Memorial Day parade that wound through downtown East Liverpool, featuring music by the East Liverpool and Beaver Local high school marching bands, ending with a ceremony in front of city hall.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6450 and American Legion Post 121 Honor Guard march down Carolina Avenue in Chester on Monday during the city’s Memorial Day services. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Mayor Jim Swoger joked about his Army veteran father and Navy veteran father-in-law not always getting along, but acknowledging that the sacrifices made by every service man and woman, regardless of branch or duty, must be celebrated on Memorial Day.
"Today is a day to honor all who served," he said. "Not just those who gave their lives, but those who fixed the motors, those who fixed the food, those who repaired our wounded warriors."
Ray Talbott, president of Veterans City Council, said he was very pleased with the turnout amongst both attendees for the parade and participating units, which included ambulances and fire trucks from numerous agencies, as well as historical military vehicles.
"I was really proud of it, and I'm glad to see the people come out and pay their respects to the veterans," he said. Talbott says he's gratified to see that returning service members receive more respect now than they did 40 years ago, when he served.
Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh told attendees of a ceremony at the Fourth Street Memorial that the strength of their presence shows how appreciated the sacrifices of military service members and their families are by the community. "It is our small way of honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today," she said.
Haugh emphasized that many of these fallen soldiers weren't volunteers - and even those who were didn't embrace the idea being in war - but had accepted the call when it came. "Simply put, they were ordinary people, like you and me, who responded in extraordinary ways," Haugh said.
Councilman Don Brown, president of the Wellsville Veterans Memorial Council and a Korean War veteran, said the crowd at the ceremony seems to grow larger with each passing year, for which he is very grateful. He praised the members of Boy Scout Troop 29 and their scoutmaster, Tom Eberhart, for their assistance in placing flags on every military veteran's gravestone at Spring Hill Cemetery.
The Rev. Duane Hetzer, pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church, delivered the invocation and benediction, during which he said God had blessed America with freedom and liberty that should not be taken for granted. "Let us serve each other and our country with boldness and grace," he said.
Dorothy Patterson, who served as treasurer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5647 for 30 years, has attended the Memorial Day services for more than 20 years. A strong family connection to the holiday prompts her to come each year. "I had two brothers in the Navy, and a brother in the Army, and a grandson in the Air Force, and a son in Vietnam," Patterson said.
In Chester, the Rev. Trina Lewis, pastor of Westminster United Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation at Memorial Day services before wreaths were placed in front of the veterans monument and flagpole next to the American Legion Post 121 on Carolina Avenue.
Lewis evoked the experiences of those who died in service to America and are now in God's presence. "You know them now - what they lost and gained in life and death," she said.
Lewis prayed that the living may remember them and, in their honor, have the resolve to make a better world. "Let us live with integrity and do the work of justice with compassion that yields the fruit of peace," she said. Lewis also prayed for the safety of active service members, and for the community to properly welcome them when they come home. "Empower us to tenderly receive those who return to us, to care for the wounded in heart or mind or body," she said.
Steve Quinn, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6450 and American Legion Post 121 Honor Guard, said he was gratified to see so many people paying tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the country, and stressed the importance of doing so.
"It's a tribute to the military people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country," he said. "Our job, here for Memorial Day, is to honor their service and to keep alive the fires of freedom."