Good mourning Lititz awakens to celebration of memories
GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Memorial Day may mean different things to different people, but there was a focus in downtown Lititz Monday morning.
The annual parade along Broad and Main streets, and the service in God’s Acre at the Moravian Cemetery is a revered event. Rear Admiral Janice Hamby would like to see the focus go beyond the day.
Hamby, a deputy chief information officer for the Secretary of Defense and this year’s Memorial Day speaker in Lititz and Rothsville, urged the crowd to not make the holiday a once-a-year occurrence, but a way of life.
"I offer to you that it is not enough," she said. "It is only one part of a more genuine and coherent way of honoring them. We honor our fallen best when we are willing to put our own skin in the game by adding our own actions and sacrifices to theirs. Our shared commitment to freedom and caring for each other is what most keenly honors our fallen heroes and memorializes their memory. That commitment is born of a foundational belief in a responsibility, an obligation, to our mates and to our nations."
The commitment seemed evident in the large turnout for the parade and service, sponsored jointly by the Lititz American Legion Post 56 and Lititz VFW Post 1463. Hundreds lined the streets to show respect. Groups of veterans led the way, followed by young Scouts carrying flowers and two marching bands.
If many of the faces seemed familiar, it’s because Memorial Day is a tradition Lititz holds dear.
Sallie Rihn, a Main Street resident, has had a front row seat to the festivities for the past 30 years.
"I think it’s great how the community comes out for this," she said. "I feel it is the least we can do to honor those who have served."
Heidi Lohr has been coming to the parade her whole life.
"I come from a military family," she said. "We have had family serve in every conflict since the Revolution. I wouldn’t miss this."
The patriotic parade is brief but powerful in its presentation as it leads the community to the cemetery behind Lititz Moravian. The veterans in the crowd proudly wear hats and shirts honoring their respective branches of service.
"This brings back a lot of memories of guys I knew and those I lost," said Army veteran Dave Greenwood. "I would not have missed the chance to serve my nation. I actually think it would be a good thing for every guy to serve."
Greenwood, displaying his combat medal, was in the Army from 1963 to 1966, in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, serving in the Cuchi area.
Tom Tedrow, another Vietnam vet, serving in the Army from 1962 to 1982, was moved by the service.
"It’s very emotional," he said. "Hard not to have tears in my eyes. It’s great to see the support, although it’s sad to remember the good times and the bad serving in the Army."
Hamby, a highly decorated veteran who lives near Quarryville, delivered a stirring speech on the importance of showing respect for those who served by being dedicated to a spirit of service in daily life.
"These celebrations are part of our national identity," she said. "They bind us together as a citizenry determined to remember the individual sacrifices of those who died in the name of duty to comrade and country."
She asked those in attendance to convert mourning into determination. It was a call to carry on the legacy of those lost in celebration of national ideals.
"That sense of mourning is certainly understood, but it should only serve as a counterpoint to greater emotions … those of pride and satisfaction and determination," Hamby said. "We are proud of and awed by the selflessness, the sacrifice and the accomplishments of those who went before us. We feel satisfaction that we are part of the same team and can count ourselves on the side of fairness and freedom. And we are determined that we will not forget them and their sacrifices. Instead of mourning, we celebrate their memory, their honor and their cause. We celebrate our own willingness to reinvigorate our own commitment to the noblest ideals of our nation and to do our patriotic duty."
She recounted a visit from a dear friend, an officer in Great Britain’s Royal Navy, when they toured Washington, D.C.
"Looking out across the beautiful monument commemorating America’s fight during World War II, she said, ‘You Yanks really know how to do a memorial right.’ And we do," remembered Hamby. "We have some of the most beautiful and moving monuments to our battles and war heroes in the world. The solemnity and the enormity of what these and our other grand memorials symbolize tells to the visitor that they have honored the dead by their respectful visit. Nonetheless, each visit comes to an end, and if our intentions to honor the fallen also end, then I would say that my friend would be wrong. Building monuments and making the occasional pilgrimage is not how you ‘do a memorial right.’ Nor is an annual event, as poignant as it may be, a complete way to honor the individual sacrifices of our war heroes."
It remains to be seen how clearly that message was heard, but on this day, as it does every year, Lititz stepped up to honor its military heroes. The respect was seen in the children as they placed flowers on the marked graves of local veterans. It was heard in the call from the Community Band bugler and William Stauffer’s rendition of "America." It was revisited in Bruce Hoover’s reading of the Gettysburg Address. And it could be felt in the percussion of the firing squad’s salute to the dead.
And as the parade left God’s Acre, Lititz had something to think about. It was a good mourning.
More photos from Memorial Day on page A16.
More MEMORIAL DAY, page A14