Every time I drive past our Lawrence County Courthouse here in New Castle, Pennsylvania, I gaze upon the many American Flags flying from their posts along the stone wall’s edge. Like patriot sentinels, they call my attention to the high ground beneath the trees; the place where the Honor Guard fires their salute to our fallen soldiers each Memorial Day. My eyes follow the line of flags to the place where dignitaries stand and speak about our fallen sons and daughters; they speak of duty, honor and the remembrance due the names engraved upon a polished granite monument – the honor roll which lists names of our County’s war dead.
Other monuments exist is various places around the county. Driving down Croton Avenue takes me past the Military Honor Roll at the intersection with Cascade Street. As I drive around Kennedy Square, I’m under the watchful eye of the Civil War Memorial soldier statue standing guard high above the Spanish American and World War I monuments. A World War II artillery piece guards Greenwood Cemetery on West Washington Street- the cemetery where many veterans are buried, Including Col. Daniel Leasure – commander of the Pennsylvania Roundheads, and Captain James Cooper who commanded Battery “B” of General Hooker’s First Corps. Route 18 through Mahoningtown takes me past another nice war memorial, and continuing out Route 108, I find the Battery “B” monument near Mt. Jackson. Most of the sentinels guarding these county war memorials are made of stone and metal. There are few human guards to maintain and protect the monuments to those who maintained and protected our freedom.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, members of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) from Fort Myer stand sentry duty at the tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather. They change the guard every thirty minutes to one hour depending on the time of year. These sentries consider this duty to be very sacred – as is expressed by their creed:
“My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.”
One day a year is not enough time to adequately honor or express gratitude for our veterans who gave their lives in the service of our country. The freedoms afforded us by the protection given by our armed forces are not occasional, but are ours at all times. We owe our veterans, both living and dead, our gratitude and our commitment to never forget them. Our busy, hurried lives and full calendars should not reduce Memorial Day to just another day off work. Those monuments around us, even the photos on our mantles, should serve as reminders that we are to remain vigilant in the honoring and remembrance of all of our veterans at all times.
© 2015 Curt Savage Media