In honor of heroes

By on June 4, 2012

By: JULIE ANNE FIDLER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Vivian Showers reads the list of names of local veterans who have passed away. (Photo by Stan Hall)

The heat didn’t stop residents from gathering at the War Memorial Field in Ephrata to pay homage to the men and women who so valiantly gave their lives to keep this country safe and to honor those who diligently serve in the military today.

The American flag gently waved under a clear blue sky on May 28 as dozens of area residents placed hands and hats over their hearts and sang along to the Ephrata High School Band’s rendition of "God Bless America." The band played a variety of patriotic tunes, and veterans stood to acknowledge the songs of their war’s era.

The program was sponsored by the Amvets Post #136 in conjunction with American Legion Post #429, VFW Post #3376 and BPO Elks Lodge #1933.

Father John McLoughlin of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church offered up the hour-long service in prayer, in which he blessed the planned activities of the day. The crowd of veterans and supporters then rose to their feet for "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Ephrata Police Honor Guard saluted all the branches of the military with a brief flag ceremony.

Captain Jay Ostrich, who is currently serving in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 193rd Special Operations wing, Middletown, where he is the chief of public affairs, was the featured guest speaker. With soldiers standing guard just up the hill from the field, Ostrich moved many to tears by pointing out that "this is the first Memorial Day in nearly a decade where men and women are not shedding their blood in Iraq."

Ostrich reflected on the nation’s involvement in past conflicts.

"Many people in our country have asked the question, ‘Was it worth it?’" The captain said he believes it was, indeed, worth it, and encouraged the community at large to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made my service members by striving to be model citizens if they feel the same way.

"We must answer the question of ‘Was it worth it?’ by our actions," he said.

Following Ostrich’s speech, Andrew Dietrich presented an 8-by-12 American flag to the Ephrata War Memorial Association, which will be flown at the monument.

After the flag presentation, two members of Amvets Post #136 read off the names of local service members who valiantly lost their lives during World War I, World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and in the War on Terrorism. A bell tolled for each name read, and some stood upon recognizing a familiar name. The crowd was then invited to shout out the names and branches of friends and loved ones currently serving their country.

The ceremony began to wind down as Misty Fasnacht sang the popular Sarah McLachlan tune, "I Will Remember You," accompanied by acoustic guitar. The haunting, melancholy sound of "Taps" wafted through the air, followed by a four gun salute. The honor guard retired the colors, and the band put the finishing touches on the ceremony by performing a song that summed up the pride and emotions of all gathered there that day: "America the Beautiful."

Capt. Ostrich has graced the podium at War Memorial Field for its Memorial Day services four times including this year and has been the featured guest speaker at numerous 9/11 remembrance ceremonies as well. He says there is something special about the people in Ephrata.

"I’m thrilled to be here," he said after the service. "This is one of the most patriotic areas in the country."

David Dreibelbis, former commander of the American Legion Post #429, is one of those patriotic Ephrata veterans.

"Last year over 450 people came (to the ceremony)," he said. "It was an honor for me to serve in the past. None of us here will ever forget it."

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