100 honor vets in Westminster ceremony Veterans Day gathering is urged not to forget

November 12, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Nearly 100 people commemorated Veterans Day at the Longwell Armory in Westminster yesterday, many of them wearing reminders of their sacrifice.

They saluted the flag in respectful silence as a Marine honor guard moved up the aisle. Two young soldiers followed the guard. One carried a red, white and blue wreath; the other held the black flag symbol of American prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Aging men and women recited the Pledge of Allegiance and joined hands to sing "God Bless America."

Russell Shaffer, 79, had pinned a "Pray for America" button on his white and purple cap -- a hat printed with "Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart."

"We are a really select group," Shaffer said. "We came back with our Purple Hearts. So many families received them for their loved ones who never came back."

Ceremonies with flags, speeches, prayers and anthems bring all veterans to mind, he said.

"These remembrances bring us together and let the younger generation know that we are still around," Shaffer said. "Kids today are just not aware of the sacrifices we made."

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown underscored Shaffer's point with an anecdote of a young Army recruit who, when asked if he knew the location of Omaha Beach, replied "south of Ocean City."

Brown chided the veterans for showing too much humility and urged them to share their experiences with younger generations.

"Explain what you did and why," he said. "Your experiences are what has made this country great. Children are eager to know who they are and where they come from."

Symbols of the armed forces decorated the walls of the stone armory. As Jerry Barnes, Carroll County state's attorney, waited to speak, he glanced several times at the emblem of the 38th Infantry. His father wore the unit's cyclone patch during World War II and often spoke to his son of his war years.

Nearly 30 years ago, Barnes stood outside the armory in a long line of high school friends, waiting for a bus to Fort Bragg, N.C.

A member of the Army's Special Forces, Barnes served a year in Vietnam. He is the only one of the three Green Berets he knew from Carroll to return home.

"Think about those not here," he said to the crowd. "Keep their memory alive every day of your life."

Kenneth W. Ruby, state commander of the Disabled American Veterans, asked for continued support of issues concerning veterans. He decried proposed cuts in services and asked the crowd to lobby legislators to the cause.

"America can never fully repay her veterans," Ruby said. "They didn't disappoint their nation and they should not be disappointed in their time of need."

The speakers called for a continuation of the spirit of service and diligent work for peace.

"There is a bravery to be shown in peace," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth Yowan. "We can turn slums into comfortable homes, uncertainty into certainty, if we have the courage to work for a better life."

Jay White, 9, probably the youngest participant in the ceremony, was given a charge from Robert Edwards of American Legion Post 31, the master of ceremonies.

"If you take anything home today, remember that you can live in a country of freedom because these vets fought for you," Edwards said to the child. "Tell your friends."

Jay had a little trouble understanding why the ceremony made so many cry.

"I don't feel sad," he said. "It made me feel good inside."

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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