Silence came to Diamond Park as local veterans placed flags in memory of soldiers lost, having died in battles both long ago and closer in memory.
A moment later, that quiet was broken by ceremonial musket-blasts fired in unison by members of the Bucktails Regiment, serving as loud-and-clear salutes to those fallen.
“They gave their all for all of us. ... (And) though their names may fade” with the march of time, “let us never forget what they have done,” Dave Allman said as he delivered a prayer of remembrance before a crowd of several hundred gathered around the Diamond Park gazebo for Monday’s late-morning Memorial Day observance in Meadville.
The city’s official observance — a long-standing yearly gathering that followed the annual Memorial Day parade as well as the early-morning Tom McNally Memorial 5K Human Race and Citizens Fitness Walk — was one of numerous events presented in communities throughout Crawford County on the national day of patriotic remembrance.
“It’s important that you’re here,” city Mayor Christopher Soff said as he briefly addressed the Meadville-area residents gathered at the Diamond. “It shows you understand, honor and respect all that has been done on our behalf” by soldiers with local roots who have fought — and died — in conflicts stretching all the way back to the American Revolutionary War and on through the wars of this century.
Freedoms celebrated today have grown from those deeply-connected roots, and “have not been without cost,” said Dave Keisel, chaplain of Meadville’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Harm Jan Huidekoper Post 2006.
“The price,” he said, “has been paid in blood, sweat and tears” by soldiers in every generation.
And “to every man and woman soldier” who has paid that price, Keisel added, “we offer our profound gratitude,” and hope that to each of them may come “a whisper ... that their sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, nor have they have been forgotten.”
Meadville dentist Dr. Abe Finton, a U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the Civil War Roundtable, served as guest speaker for Monday’s observance. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War being observed across the commonwealth, Finton — who also served as grand marshal of Monday’s parade — focused his speech on recognizing Crawford County’s role, and some of its historic figures’ notable actions and contributions throughout that era.
Along with various local military organizations providing honor guards, other participants in the observance included Demarius Newsome, who recited President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; Sydney Keller, a Linesville Girl Scout member who gave a traditional reading of “In Flanders Field”; Monica Miller, who sang the national anthem; local Memorial Day Committee and VFW member Robert Franklin, who served as master of ceremonies; and Linda Hanahan and Shirley Straughn, who laid a traditional wreath in the water of the Shippen Fountain to honor soldiers lost at sea.
The Meadville Area Memorial Day 2012 Observance Committee organized and presented the city’s parade and ceremony.