“God Bless America, land that I love.”


Hands over hearts and gazes trained on Old Glory, they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A sizable crowd gathered Monday for the Damascus Veterans Memorial Service and the dedication of the new monument.

 Pastor Stuart Hunt, Damascus Baptist Church, opened in prayer, saying, “We are thankful as we remember those who have served in the various branches of the military. And we honor those that gave their lives that we might enjoy freedom. That we might be able to enjoy a way of life in this country, unknown in many places of the world.

 


“God Bless America, land that I love.”


Hands over hearts and gazes trained on Old Glory, they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A sizable crowd gathered Monday for the Damascus Veterans Memorial Service and the dedication of the new monument.


 Pastor Stuart Hunt, Damascus Baptist Church, opened in prayer, saying, “We are thankful as we remember those who have served in the various branches of the military. And we honor those that gave their lives that we might enjoy freedom. That we might be able to enjoy a way of life in this country, unknown in many places of the world.


“As we have this Memorial Day Service, we would remember those serving today in various parts of the world. Those in Afghanistan, those in Iraq, South Korea and other places where covert operations may be ongoing to give freedom,” he said. "Thus, as we honor those who made that commitment to serve; and as we dedicate this place, this ground, to honor those who gave their lives, we ask Your blessing on us today, in Jesus name, Amen.”


Keynote Speaker General Dan O’Neil (Ret.) recited a poem as he spoke to the crowd: “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the Freedom of the Press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us Freedom of Speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag. And who allows the protester to burn the flag.”


Holding his little girl, Sydney, Damascus Township Supervisor Jason Roberts watched from the crowd. It was important to be there, he said. “I just wanted to bring my daughter, and just hand down a tradition of military service. I’m fifth generation of service in our family. And I think it’s important that this day is not only memorialized for the veterans that are dead, but for the veterans that are living,” said Roberts, who served stateside during Operation Enduring Freedom. 


Roberts served five years as a Navy Seabee. “I was a construction engineer, and ran heavy equipment. And then, I was activated for 9/11, up to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire for security detail. And then, I did three years of Reserve time as well.”
What would he want his military comrades to know? Voice breaking with emotion, he said, “If I could, I would stay active.”


“I appreciate the people who’ve served,”said Pastor Lane Jones, Calkins Baptist Church. To those serving today, he says, “I would want them to know that we’re thankful for what they’re doing and we pray for them consistently in our church services ...God hears and answers the prayers of his people. We regularly pray for their safety, for the Lord’s work in their lives spiritually, for their protection for the people who are leading them. We pray for our President.”
“I know a lot of these kids whose names are on the side of the building, ‘cause they graduated with me,”said Rob Diehl of Conklin Hill, referring to those killed in the war. His brother Donald, who has since passed away, served in WWII.


Monday’s Memorial Day Service included presentations by the Damascus Christian Academy; singing by Ms. Lucille Sheard, accompanied by organist Mrs. Karen Valenti; placement of the Historical Society Wreath by Mrs. June Marzani; and placement of a memorial wreath by key organizer, Bob Gross.  

A Vietnam era veteran, Gross, along with WWII veteran Bob Dexter and Korean Conflict veteran Howard Schuchman were instrumental in raising the necessary funds for the new monument.