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MILLERSBURG -- As hundreds gathered in the cemetery in Millersburg Monday morning for a Memorial Day presentation, American Legion Post 192 Chaplain Rob Wengerd prayed that we may all be the best Americans we can be.
That prayer echoed the sentiment of a speech presented by Holmes County native Ron Stutzman, a Vietnam veteran who served in 1967.
"Unlike past wars, the end of the war on terrorism won't be obvious," Stutzman said. "There won't be any treaties signed aboard a battleship or in a diplomatic conference room. While wars today may be less defined, one fact is clear, our enemies want us dead.
"Fortunately, we have the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard doing all they can to protect us," he continued. "But it is up to us to remember their sacrifice. Long after the guns of the battlefield have been silenced, and the bombs stopped exploding, children of the fallen warriors will still be missing parents. Spouses will be without their life partners. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters, who died, way too early in life.
"As Americans, we need to be there for them," he went on. "No one can replace these fallen heroes in the eyes of their families, but we can offer a shoulder to cry on and give them the assurance that their loved one's sacrifice will not be forgotten."
Those sacrifices also are made in the service of humanitarian missions, that benefit innocent civilians in faraway lands.
He cited Capt. Mary Clinker, who was a flight nurse, whose plane went down near Saigon while evacuating orphan children during operation baby lift.
"While protecting other people's orphans, they must all too often leave their own children behind," Stutzman said. "All who die in war are far too young, whether teenaged troops or middle-aged commanders, we know they left us too soon to protect our way of life.
"Selfless bravery is not gained from experience, but an innate quality that is instilled into character, a process that usually involves strong parents or siblings," he continued. "It is these special families that produce the outstanding men and women who have given everything for our freedom. Each spring we come together as a nation to honor those who have given the supreme sacrifice in defense of the values we hold precious."
Too many Americans see this day simply as the beginning of summer. Memorial Day has been officially celebrated since 1868 in towns, villages and cities across the country, placing flowers and flags on the graves of the heroes.
"Today, we continue to honor those who have died, we think of those who are still missing, and also those who mourn for their fallen loved ones," Stutzman said. "Those we honor today were compelled by love of liberty and country to serve. Yes, ordinary men who acted in an extraordinary way of selfless service."
More than a million soldiers have died in wars and conflicts since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775 in their fight for independence. They also died in the civil war, which established freedom for all Americans, to Europe and Pearl Harbor to Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Men and women have died so that we may continue to live the ideals we hold so precious: God, country and family."
Stutzman shared that the body of an Air Force pilot who was shot down in Vietnam was returned home to the USA yesterday. Found near where the plane went down, his wedding ring identified the pilot.
"The family was much relieved. He went down in combat, but was returned to U.S. soil," Stutzman said.
Another example of the ultimate sacrifice made by soldiers, memorialized this holiday.
Similar programs were offered Monday in Berlin and in Killbuck.
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.