100 gather to honor veterans at ceremony in Westminster facility Fallen comrades are recalled by war survivors

November 12, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Many of the nearly 100 people assembled in Westminster's Longwell Municipal Center yesterday once went to war. They met on Veterans Day to commemorate that and to remember comrades who returned from battle in coffins.

Sponsored by American Legion Post 31 in Westminster, the second annual Veterans Day event brought together veterans and their spouses for an hour of ceremony and remembering.

Some walked with canes. Some passed up the opportunity to lay flowers on a war monument in Veterans Memorial Garden behind City Hall because of the difficulty of ascending stairs.

As they walked from the municipal center to the memorial, many conversations were of recent funerals and viewings.

The ceremony marks "the time we spent together with others," including those who didn't return from the war, said Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Ray T. Brown of Westminster, a Korean War veteran.

Brown, who served in Korea from 1951 to 1953 as a combat engineer and signal corpsman in the Army, attended the ceremony with five local Korean War veterans who are trying to establish a formal group with links to a state veterans organization.

Veterans of Korea "were quite some time receiving acclaim, but it was a well-fought war and in the end, we did secure a peace," Brown said.

Veterans who returned from World War II are dying of natural causes, the Rev. Frederick P. Eckhardt said in introducing a brief memorial service for veterans who died in the past year.

"You very seldom pick up the paper without seeing another World War II veteran laid to rest," Eckhardt said, asking God's blessing on "the silent battalions."

The ceremony included a cappella solos, prayers, a bagpipe solo and a speech by retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Lawrence McBee of Taylorsville.

Representatives of local veterans organizations placed flags at a memorial table in memory of members who died during the year. A ceremony behind City Hall featured a firing salute and the playing of taps.

McBee, who spent 43 years in the National Guard as an infantry officer before retiring in 1995, heads the guard's About Face, an after-school program for middle school students.

"Is our country perfect? No. Could we stand some integrity in our public officials? Yes," McBee said.

But the United States is "the most caring and generous country in the world," he said.

The annual ceremony is important "to honor veterans who served our country or died in the line of duty so we could have our freedom," said Jim Brown, a Vietnam-era veteran who is commander of Westminster American Legion Post.

"We need to remind our younger generation of what they have because of what these guys did," he said.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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