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A day to honor…
DONNA WALKER Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Ephrata counts none among its military members who have died in battle since the Korean War, a mark of fortune solemnly acknowledged during a Memorial Day observance Monday at War Memorial Field.
American Legion Commander David Dreibelbis read the names of those fallen in the battles of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When asked, no one in the audience of hundreds named a fallen hero that the veterans organizations don’t know about. If any exist, they want to know.
"It’s a Greek belief that as long as we remember the names of the fallen, we honor them with immortality," said master of ceremonies Dave Groff after the reading of the honored dead. In an interview after the ceremony, he said they’ve been unable to find anybody lost during Grenada, Iran-Contra, Iraq or Afghanistan. "We are blessed as a community."
Ephrata’s native sons and daughters have served through all of the nation’s conflicts. Audience members stood up to state in loud, clear voices the names of hometown soldiers, airmen and Marines currently serving in the Armed Forces at home and abroad.
One, Alma Buffenmyer, was the first to rise to call out her great nephew’s name, Christopher Weaver. He’s a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard and about to be one of the 2,000 Guard members currently serving in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
"He’s in Texas now and ready to go to Afghanistan," Buffenmyer said. "He’s married and has a daughter 7 months old. He’s been in the Guard seven years."
Buffenmyer appreciated the guest speaker’s information about the Pennsylvania National Guard. Assistant Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. George Schwartz joined the military for the same reason as young Weaver. In an interview before the ceremony, Schwartz said he felt the call to enter the military out of a sense of duty and patriotism. His own father served in World War II, but it was personal experience that made this day special for him.
"Memorial Day is a time to remember fallen comrades," Schwartz said. "After I lost some soldiers, then it took on a lot more meaning for me."
In 2006, Schwartz commanded the 55th Brigade Combat Team (Forward) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2007, he led a 125-man advisory team embedded with an Afghan Army infantry brigade. They conducted counter-insurgency and security missions through 11 provinces in Regional Command-East.
In his remarks, Schwartz referred to Lincoln’s words in the Gettysburg address 150 years ago when he said they gave "the last full measure of devotion."
"America has been blessed with such men and women as no other nation in the world. Generation after generation, patriots in uniform defended our way of life. Their strength of purpose allows us to flourish as individuals, a society and as a nation," he said.
At least 284 Pennsylvanians, including 53 Guard members have died since 9/11 while supporting overseas operations. Schwartz pointed out that their families, friends and employers also experience the scars of war.
"In each one of our hearts is a special place for the men and women who believe in their country, their mission and their fellow troops … enough to spend the last days of their lives bravely battling those who oppose our way of life," he said.
Schwartz said that since the last Memorial Day, two Pennsylvania Guardsmen were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan: Chief Warrant Officers Jarett Yoder and Matthew Ruffner. Their loved ones’ response illustrates the optimism and strength of military families. They said the men were their heroes because they followed their dreams.
In Iraq, 4,445 Americans died, including 196 Pennsylvanians. In Afghanistan, another 88 Pennsylvanians were among the 2,170 lost.
"Support for war and activism against it may come and go. The flags hung throughout our neighborhoods may fade and be taken down. But the thoughts and memories of our fallen warriors – just like that long list that Dave read – shine as brightly in the hearts and minds of us all today as they ever have."
The ceremony was sponsored by the American Legion Post 429, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3376, BPO Elks Lodge 1933 and Amvets Post 136.
More MEMORIAL DAY, page A18