By Keith Gushard
People turn out for Memorial Day observances in Meadville and other communities in appreciation for the freedoms Americans enjoy, Joe Galbo has learned over the past several years.
“It’s showing respect for the ultimate sacrifice some veterans have made,” said Galbo, who chairs the Meadville Memorial Day observance which will be held in Diamond Park Monday. It’s one of many Memorial Day weekend commemorations to be held throughout the area.
Galbo hopes everyone pauses and ponders what the American flag means on a grave — especially on Memorial Day this Monday.
The theme of this year’s observance in Meadville is “50 years after the beginning of Vietnam.” It begins with a parade that ends at Diamond Park where the official observance service is held.
“Ours is not a candy pass out parade like other parades at other times of the year,” Galbo said. “It’s an observance. What’s neat about it is, it brings families to the parade and many come to the service afterward.”
This year, the traditional parade begins at a different location than in years past and takes a different route due to construction on North and Water streets.
This year’s parade steps off from the corner of Water and Willow streets at 10 a.m. It will proceed along Water Street to Popular Street and from there, turn right following Poplar Street to Market Street. It then turns onto Market Street traveling to Chestnut Street. It then turns onto Chestnut Street, following Chestnut Street up to Diamond Park.
The parade will include military units saluting the veterans.
“There are hundreds of people along the parade route — even in bad weather,” Galbo said. “The majority of them line up along the blocks of Chestnut Street to watch it.”
Meadville’s Memorial Day activities begin at 8 a.m. Monday with the Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tom McNally Memorial 5K Human Race and Citizens Fitness Walk at Diamond Park.
McNally, who died in 2008, was an avid runner and former president of French Creek Recreational Trails Inc., which developed the Ernst Trail recreational area. Proceeds from the run and fitness walk benefit French Creek Recreational Trails. Race day registration will be accepted Monday from 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. at the YMCA, 365 Chestnut St.
At 10 a.m. the parade steps off and ends at 11 a.m. at Diamond Park.
At 11 a.m. the official Memorial Day observance begins with the tolling of area church bells to honor all veterans.
Robert Franklin will serve master of ceremonies for the observance, which will include a salute to the flag by the honor guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2006 followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and then the National Anthem sung by soloist Monica Miller.
The Gettysburg Address will be presented by Russell Bergholtz with Sydney Keller of Linesville Girl Scout Troop 31038 presenting the poem Flanders Field.
Col. Andrew Pears, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, will be the featured speaker. He served as the deputy director of communications for the U.S. Air Force in Europe at Ramstein, Germany, his 14th assignment during his 27-year career.
A native of Meadville, Pears entered the Air Force through Officer Training School in 1985 after receiving a bachelor of science in physics from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
Among his assignments were: 39th Mission Support Group commander at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; chief of Director’s Action Group of the United States, 331st Recruiting Squadron commander at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala.; and Intelligence Functional Area Subsystems Program manager of the United States delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at Brussels, Belgium.
He commanded a group in direct support of the Global War on Terrorism and a combat communications squadron during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He saw service in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey and Afghanistan.
He is married to the former Mary Louise Kupfner of Bethel Park and they have three children. He is a son of Howard and Nancy Pears, also of Meadville.
The ceremony is scheduled to end at approximately 12:05 p.m.
“We try to keep it following the same format so people can share it with their families each year,” Galbo said.
Did You Know?
Originally known as Decoration Day because the nation’s Civil War dead were honored by having their graves decorated, Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868. It came about from a proclamation by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers who served in the Civil War.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
Bike Parade unit forming
Meadville’s Memorial Day parade will include a bicycle parade unit this year. All ages may participate and persons are asked to decorate their bicycles, tricycles and other self-propelled wheeled vehicles, including motorized wheelchairs, patriotically. Ribbons will be awarded for participation and best patriotically decorated in 11 categories. Parade line up starts at 9:30 a.m. at Water and Willow streets.
- More information: Call Wayne Hanson at 587-3418.